Because this website began a decade ago, there are many subpages on this subject...

A fjord in southern Greenland, near Narsarsuaq. (Photo: Richard Hollingham)
C O N T E N T S :

White House taunts GOP on climate change: ‘I don’t believe they can stop us’
Washington Times, Nov. 18, 2014

The White House forged ahead Monday with yet another piece of its climate change agenda and bragged that Republicans are powerless to stop it.

A presidential task force unveiled a report on how communities across the country can prepare for the effects of global warming. In all, the recommendations on “climate preparedness and resilience” could cost the federal government more than $100 billion to protect drinking water supplies, shore up coastlines against rising sea levels and take other preventive measures...

Story in full:

Scientists Warn of Rising Oceans as Antarctic Ice Melts
MAY 12, 2014

The collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in West Antarctica appears to have begun and is almost certainly unstoppable, with global warming accelerating the pace of the disintegration, two groups of scientists reported Monday.
..full story here.

Government shuts down in the US, Russia takes action - video just below, right.

I-BBC write about the territorial issues above, center.  Note how accurate this map is - and you can see former Governor of Alaska's kitchen window if you squint...
Intergovernmental Panel report has a few holes in it? 


NYTIMES climate change story 2013...
Timing a Rise in Sea Level
August 12, 2013

Thirty-five years ago, a scientist named John H. Mercer issued a warning. By then it was already becoming clear that human emissions would warm the earth, and Dr. Mercer had begun thinking deeply about the consequences.

His paper, in the journal Nature, was titled “West Antarctic Ice Sheet and CO2 Greenhouse Effect: A Threat of Disaster.” In it, Dr. Mercer pointed out the unusual topography of the ice sheet sitting over the western part of Antarctica. Much of it is below sea level, in a sort of bowl, and he said that a climatic warming could cause the whole thing to degrade rapidly on a geologic time scale, leading to a possible rise in sea level of 16 feet.

While it is clear by now that we are in the early stages of what is likely to be a substantial rise in sea level, we still do not know if Dr. Mercer was right about a dangerous instability that could cause that rise to happen rapidly, in geologic time. We may be getting closer to figuring that out. An intriguing new paper comes from Michael J. O’Leary of Curtin University in Australia and five colleagues scattered around the world. Dr. O’Leary has spent more than a decade exploring the remote western coast of Australia, considered one of the best places in the world to study sea levels of the past.

The paper, published July 28 in Nature Geoscience, focuses on a warm period in the earth’s history that preceded the most recent ice age. In that epoch, sometimes called the Eemian, the planetary temperature was similar to levels we may see in coming decades as a result of human emissions, so it is considered a possible indicator of things to come.

Examining elevated fossil beaches and coral reefs along more than a thousand miles of coast, Dr. O’Leary’s group confirmed something we pretty much already knew. In the warmer world of the Eemian, sea level stabilized for several thousand years at about 10 to 12 feet above modern sea level.

The interesting part is what happened after that. Dr. O’Leary’s group found what they consider to be compelling evidence that near the end of the Eemian, sea level jumped by another 17 feet or so, to settle at close to 30 feet above the modern level, before beginning to fall as the ice age set in.

In an interview, Dr. O’Leary told me he was confident that the 17-foot jump happened in less than a thousand years — how much less, he cannot be sure.

This finding is something of a vindication for one member of the team, a North Carolina field geologist, Paul J. Hearty. He had argued for decades that the rock record suggested a jump of this sort, but only recently have measurement and modeling techniques reached the level of precision needed to nail the case.

We have to see if their results withstand critical scrutiny. A sea-level scientist not involved in the work, Andrea Dutton of the University of Florida, said the paper had failed to disclose enough detailed information about the field sites to allow her to judge the overall conclusion. But if the work does hold up, the implications are profound. The only possible explanation for such a large, rapid jump in sea level is the catastrophic collapse of a polar ice sheet, on either Greenland or Antarctica.

Dr. O’Leary is not prepared to say which; figuring that out is the group’s next project. But a 17-foot rise in less than a thousand years, a geologic instant, has to mean that one or both ice sheets contain some profound instability that can be set off by a warmer climate.

That, of course, augurs poorly for humans. Scientists at Stanford calculated recently that human emissions are causing the climate to change many times faster than at any point since the dinosaurs died out. We are pushing the climate system so hard that, if the ice sheets do have a threshold of some kind, we stand a good chance of exceeding it.

Another recent paper, by Anders Levermann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and a half-dozen colleagues, implies that even if emissions were to stop tomorrow, we have probably locked in several feet of sea level rise over the long term.

Benjamin Strauss and his colleagues at Climate Central, an independent group of scientists and journalists in Princeton, that reports climate research, translated the Levermann results into graphical form, and showed the difference it could make if we launched an aggressive program to control emissions. By 2100, their calculations suggest, continuing on our current path would mean locking in a long-term sea level rise of 23 feet, but aggressive emission cuts could limit that to seven feet.

If you are the mayor of Miami or of a beach town in New Jersey, you may be asking yourself: Exactly how long is all this going to take to play out?

On that crucial point, alas, our science is still nearly blind. Scientists can look at the rocks and see indisputable evidence of jumps in sea level, and they can associate those with relatively modest increases in global temperature. But the nature of the evidence is such that it is hard to tell the difference between something that happened in a thousand years and something that happened in a hundred.

On the human time scale, of course, that is all the difference in the world. If sea level is going to rise by, say, 30 feet over several thousand years, that is quite a lot of time to adjust — to pull back from the beaches, to reinforce major cities, and to develop technologies to help us cope.

But if sea level is capable of rising several feet per century, as Dr. O’Leary’s paper would seem to imply and as many other scientists believe, then babies being born now could live to see the early stages of a global calamity.

Climate talks must consider impact of melting permafrost, scientists say
Anchorage Daily News
By ERIKA BOLSTAD — McClatchy Newspapers
Published: November 27, 2012

WASHINGTON -- Scientists who study the Arctic say they're worried that nations meeting this week to set targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions aren't adequately considering how much carbon dioxide and methane could be released from the world's rapidly thawing permafrost.

Researchers have known the permafrost is warming for some time, but they've only recently begun to accurately measure just how much carbon is in the Earth's frozen regions. And they're only beginning to understand the consequences of such unanticipated greenhouse gas emissions, which weren't factored into the manmade emissions targets world leaders are considering this week at the United Nations climate talks in Doha, Qatar.

Permafrost, ground that stays frozen for at least two years in a row, stores vast amounts of decayed plant matter. As the Earth warms, that frozen organic matter thaws and is released in the former of carbon dioxide or, more troublingly, methane. Global warming is creating a feedback loop -- as the Earth warms, higher temperatures put the permafrost at greater risk. And melting permafrost releases the very greenhouse gases that contribute to the Earth's warming.

As they learn more about the carbon in permafrost, scientists say the possible emissions must be factored into climate talks. A report issued this week by the U.N. Environment Program urges the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to assess the impact of permafrost carbon dioxide and methane emissions. The report relies heavily on research done in Alaska by scientists with the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

"The message is that policymakers have to be aware of the possible consequences of an already changing world," said Vladimir Romanovsky of the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. "And these kinds of concerns should be included in any kind of further plans to mitigate and adapt to these changes. We need to know more about any changes in permafrost in a more robust way to have good information to build our decisions."

Their research shows that the Earth's permafrost contains 1,700 gigatons of carbon as frozen organic matter. That's twice the carbon currently in the atmosphere.

"Permafrost is one of the keys to the planet's future, because it contains large stores of frozen organic matter that, if thawed and released into the atmosphere, would amplify current global warming and propel us to a warmer world," Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, said in a news release. "Its potential impact on the climate, ecosystems and infrastructure has been neglected for too long."

The report also recommended that nations with extensive permafrost -- the United States, Canada, China and Russia -- create national monitoring networks and make plans to mitigate the risks of thawing permafrost.

"The infrastructure we have now is not adequate to monitor future changes in permafrost," Kevin Schaefer, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the report's lead author, said in a news release. "We need to greatly expand our current networks to monitor permafrost, which requires direct investment of money and resources by individual countries."

Policymakers also will need to plan to protect communities in the most vulnerable regions, Schaefer said, because thawing permafrost has consequences beyond the unexpected emissions that are warming the Earth.

Homes, businesses, roads, and oil and gas infrastructure in Alaska and other parts of the far north were built on ground that stayed frozen. If the ground thaws, they could collapse. Already, some villages in Alaska have had to contend with the changing conditions.

Grappling With the Permafrost Problem
November 27, 2012, 4:01 am

The greatest single uncertainty about climate change is how much the warming of the planet will feed on itself.

As the temperature increases because of human emissions, feedbacks could cause new pools of carbon to be released into the atmosphere, magnifying the trend. Other types of feedbacks could potentially slow the warming. Over all, climate scientists have only best guesses about how these conflicting tendencies will balance out, though most of them think the net result is likely to be a substantial rise in the planet's average temperature.

As I reported last year, one of the most worrisome potential feedbacks involves the permafrost that underlies a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere. Buried in that frozen ground is a lot of ancient organic material, containing twice as much carbon as now exists in the atmosphere. The permafrost is starting to warm and the carbon to escape.

A new report, released Tuesday morning by the United Nations Environment Program, warns that scientists do not have a sufficient handle on the situation. It calls for new monitoring efforts and for a formal assessment of the permafrost feedback by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the U.N. body that periodically reviews and summarizes climate science.

The report will be considered in the next few days at a climate negotiating session in Doha, Qatar. If current estimates about the potential for carbon release from permafrost are correct, they mean that tackling climate change is going to be even harder than it once seemed. That is because the long-running global negotiations over emission limits do not take much account of the potentially large carbon release from permafrost.

In essence, the permafrost feedback is a big new emissions source that makes the math of controlling climate change harder than ever.

The new report is available here.

2012 sets record for Northeast's hottest year ever
Greenwich TIME
Updated 5:40 p.m., Tuesday, August 7, 2012

ITHACA, N.Y. (AP) — No surprise for Northeast residents sweating out the summer after a winter barely touching their snow shovels: This is the hottest year on record in the region so far.

The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University reported Tuesday that the average temperature in the 12-state region was 49.9 degrees from January through July. That's the warmest seven-month period since 1895, the year systematic record keeping began.

While it makes for sweaty nights, not everybody's complaining.

"The heat is definitely a blessing for us after coming off the warm, dry winter without a lot of weather events," said Alan Ayers, general manager at Crisafulli Brothers Plumbing and Heating Contractors in Albany.

The 73-year-old company has seen an 18 percent increase in new installations over last year and has its 16 technicians working long hours to install, replace and repair air conditioning units taxed by the swelter.

The second-warmest comparable period was 1921, when the seven-month average was 49.2 degrees.

The data come after the Northeast endured a sweltering July with record-breaking temperatures around the region. Syracuse hit 101 on July 17, and Washington's Reagan National Airport recorded 105 degrees on July 7.

On a single day, July 18, LaGuardia Airport in New York City hit 101 degrees; Baltimore and Newark, N.J., recorded 104 degrees; and Philadelphia 100 degrees, according to the climate center.

Areas around the United States this summer have suffered through blistering heat waves, wildfires and droughts — the sorts of extreme weather events that experts have predicted will come with climate change. But Kathy Vreeland, a climatologist at the Cornell center, cautioned against reading too much into a small set of data covering a single region.

"It could be global climate change. It could be an anomalous year, or anomalous run of years," she said.

Ayers said the heat tests his crews' people skills, as well as their technical ability.

"Any time you have more work than normal, it does wear down on the men, and the customers as well," he said. "Due to the continued warm weather, some of new customers tend to be a little less patient."

Breaking the warm spell down by state, it was the warmest first seven months of the year in the six New England states, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. It was the second warmest such period in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

It also was the warmest 12-month period in the Northeast through July.

Sea levels here rising faster than elsewhere
Scientists call East Coast a 'hot spot' for global warming effect

Article published Jun 25, 2012

Washington - From Cape Hatteras, N.C., to just north of Boston, sea levels are rising much faster than they are around the globe, putting one of the world's most costly coasts in danger of flooding, government researchers report.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists call the 600-mile swath a "hot spot" for climbing sea levels caused by global warming. Along the region, the Atlantic Ocean is rising at an annual rate three to four times faster than the global average since 1990, according to the study published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.  It's not just a faster rate, but at a faster pace, like a car on a highway "jamming on the accelerator," said the study's lead author Asbury Sallenger Jr., an oceanographer at the agency. He looked at sea levels starting in 1950, and noticed a change beginning in 1990.

Since then, sea levels have gone up globally about 2 inches. But in Norfolk, Va., where officials are scrambling to fight more frequent flooding, sea level has jumped a total of 4.8 inches, the research showed. For Philadelphia, levels went up 3.7 inches, and in New York City, it was 2.8 inches.  Climate change pushes up sea levels by melting ice sheets in Greenland and west Antarctica, and because warmer water expands.

Computer models long have projected higher levels along parts of the East Coast because of changes in ocean currents from global warming, but this is the first study to show that's already happened.  By 2100, scientists and computer models estimate that sea levels globally could rise as much as 3.3 feet. The accelerated rate along the East Coast could add about 8 to 11 inches more, Sallenger said.

"Where that kind of thing becomes important is during a storm," Sallenger said. That's when it can damage buildings and erode coastlines.

On the West Coast, a National Research Council report released Friday projects an average 3-foot rise in sea level in California by the year 2100, and 2 feet in Oregon and Washington. The land mass north of the San Andreas Fault is expected to rise, offsetting the rising sea level in those two states.

The USGS study suggests the Northeast would get hit harder because of ocean currents. When the Gulf Stream and its northern extension slow down, the slope of the seas changes to balance against the slowing current. That slope then pushes up sea levels in the Northeast. It is like a see-saw effect, Sallenger theorizes.  Scientists believe that with global warming, the Gulf Stream and other ocean currents are slowing and will slow further, Sallenger said.

Jeff Williams, a retired USGS expert who wasn't part of the study, and Stefan Rahmstorf, a professor of ocean physics at the Potsdam Institute in Germany, said the study does a good job of making the case for sea level rise acceleration.

Margaret Davidson, director of the Coastal Services Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Charleston, S.C., said the implications of the new research are "huge when you think about it. Somewhere between Maryland and Massachusetts, you've got some bodaciously expensive property at risk."

Sea level projections matter in coastal states because flood maps based on those predictions can result in restrictions on property development and affect flood insurance rates.  Those estimates became an issue in North Carolina recently when the Legislature proposed using historic figures to calculate future sea levels, rejecting higher rates from a state panel of experts. The USGS study suggests an even higher level than the panel's estimate for 2100.

The North Carolina proposal used data from University of Florida professor Robert Dean, who had found no regional differences in sea level rise. Dean said he can't argue with the results from Sallenger's study showing accelerating sea level rise in the region, but he said it's more likely to be from natural cycles. Sallenger said there is no evidence to support that claim.

“I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.”

Why the Climate Skeptics Are Winning

Too many of their opponents are intellectual thugs.
Weekly Standard
Steven F. Hayward
March 5, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 24

The forlorn and increasingly desperate climate campaign achieved a new level of ineptitude last week when what had looked like a minor embarrassment for one of its critics​—​the Chicago-based Heartland Institute​—​turned out to be a full-fledged catastrophe for itself. A moment’s reflection on the root of this episode points to why the climate campaign is out of (greenhouse) gas.

In an obvious attempt to inflict a symmetrical Climategate-style scandal on the skeptic community, someone representing himself as a Heartland Institute insider “leaked” internal documents for Heartland’s most recent board of directors meeting to a fringe environmental blog, along with a photocopy of a supposed Heartland “strategy memo” outlining a plan to disseminate a public school curriculum aimed at “dissuading teachers from teaching science.”

This ham-handed phrase (one of many) should have been a tipoff to treat the document dump with some .  .  . skepticism (a trait that has gone missing from much of the climate science community). But more than a few environmental blogs and mainstream news outlets ran with the story of how this “leak” exposed the nefarious “antiscience” Neanderthals of Heartland and their fossil fuel paymasters. But the strategy memo is a fake, probably created because the genuine internal documents are fairly ho-hum. It seems the climate campaign is now taking its tactics from Dan “fake but accurate” Rather.

Why Heartland? And how did the “leaker” get his hands on authentic Heartland board materials that are obviously the source for the faked strategy memo? The Heartland Institute sponsors the most significant annual gathering of climate skeptics, usually in New York, Chicago, or Washington, D.C.—a conference that attracts hundreds of scientists and activists from around the globe, including most of the top skeptical scientists, such as MIT’s Richard Lindzen, Yale’s Robert Mendelsohn, and career EPA official Alan Carlin. By assembling a critical mass of serious dissenting opinion, the Heartland conference dispels the favorite climate campaign talking point that there’s virtually no one of repute, and no arguments of merit, outside the -so-called consensus of imminent climate catastrophe.

The Heartland conferences have been too big for the media to ignore completely, though coverage has been spare and grudging. The conferences are also a morale booster for skeptics, who tend to be isolated and relentlessly assailed in their scattered outposts. It is worth adding that Heartland has always extended invitations to the leading “mainstream” figures to speak or debate at the conference, including Al Gore, NASA’s James Hansen, and senior officials from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (Heartland typically receives no response from such figures.)

The most likely instigator of an anti-Heartland provocation would be someone from among the political activists of the environmental movement, such as the merry pranksters of Greenpeace, who have been known to paw through the garbage cans of climate skeptics looking for evidence of payoffs from the fossil fuel industry (which, contrary to left-wing paranoia, has tended rather to be a generous funder of the climate catastrophe campaign). But shortly after the document dump, Ross Kaminsky, an unpaid senior fellow and former Heartland board member now with the American Spectator, noticed something odd in the digital fingerprint of the “strategy memo.” It had been scanned on an Epson printer/scanner on Monday, February 13, on the West Coast (not in the Midwest, where Heartland is located), just one day before the entire document dump appeared online for the first time. Like the famous little detail of when and how Alger Hiss disposed of his old Ford, this date and location will turn out to be a key piece of evidence unraveling the full story, some of which still remains shrouded.

So how did the official Heartland documents get out? Someone claiming to be a board member emailed an unsuspecting Heartland staffer, asking that a set of board documents be sent to a new email address. This act may have violated California and Illinois criminal statutes prohibiting false representation, and perhaps some federal statutes pertaining to wire fraud as well.

Kaminsky and a second blogger, Steven Mosher, piled up the anomalies: The leaked board documents were not scanned but were original software-produced documents, which moreover have a time stamp from Heartland’s Central time zone. Hence the “strategy memo,” if authentic, would have had to be obtained by some other channel. These and other clues led both Kaminsky and Mosher to go public with the accusation that the most likely perpetrator was Peter Gleick, a semi-prominent environmental scientist in Oakland, California.

Gleick is known chiefly for his work on water issues, for which he enjoys a deserved reputation for his data-driven research (though he gets the remedies wrong). He has been as well a peripheral but aggressive figure in the climate wars, notable for the angry and politicized tone of his participation. Gleick is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was, until two weeks ago, the chairman of an American Geophysical Union task force on scientific -ethics. He’s also a columnist for Forbes magazine’s website and a recipient of one of those MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants that typically go to the trendy and politically correct.

Making a direct accusation as Kaminsky and Mosher did is a strong and potentially libelous move, and the green blogosphere closed ranks quickly around Gleick. One poster wrote: “I hope that Mr. Kaminsky will be prepared [to] fully retract and apologize to Dr. Gleick once he is ruled out as the possible culprit.” But then the other shoe dropped: Gleick confessed on Monday, February 20, that he was the person who had deceived Heartland into emailing their board documents. Gleick claimed, though, that he had received the phony strategy memo anonymously early in the year by mail. He explained in a column for the Huffington Post: “I attempted to confirm the accuracy of the information in this document. In an effort to do so, and in a serious lapse of my own and professional judgment and ethics, I solicited and received additional materials directly from the Heartland Institute under someone else’s name.”

Gleick’s story doesn’t add up, given that many of the details in the phony “strategy memo” could only have been composed by someone with prior access to the complete board materials that Gleick says he subsequently sought out. So far Gleick is the only person known to have had access to the Heartland internal board documents. And he has not been forthcoming about the details of the phony memo. Was there a postmark? Did he keep the envelope and the original document that he scanned? Why does he think he was singled out to receive this information, rather than a reporter? The only thing missing right now to make Gleick’s story weaker is an old Woodstock typewriter.

Then there is the content of the memo itself, which tellingly is written in the first person but bears no one’s name as an author. One is supposed to presume it came from Heartland’s president, Joe Bast, but it is not quite his style. Megan McArdle of the Atlantic sums it up nicely: “It reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern.” Numerous observers have pointed to items in the memo that are strikingly inauthentic or alien to the conservative think tank world, but one in particular strikes me​—​a curious passage about the need for “expanded communication”:

    Efforts at places such as Forbes are especially important now that they have begun to allow high-profile climate scientists (such as Gleick) to post warmist science essays that counter our own. This influential audience has usually been reliably anti-climate and it is important to keep opposing voices out. Efforts might also include cultivating more neutral voices with big audiences (such as [Andrew] Revkin at Dot­Earth/NYTimes, who has a well-known antipathy for some of the more extreme AGW [anthropogenic global warming] communicators .  .  .

As curious as the reference to Gleick and Forbes is (Gleick shares space at Forbes with Heartland’s James Taylor, which is another interesting circumstance), the reference to Andy Revkin is more intriguing. Revkin is a New York Times science blogger who reports climate issues fairly straight up, though his own sympathies are with the climate campaign. Perhaps because he is basically sympathetic, Revkin’s occasional departures from the party line have been a source of annoyance for more ardent climate campaigners; one of the emails from the first cache of leaked Climategate documents in 2009 complained that Revkin wasn’t “reliable,” and University of Illinois climate alarmist Michael Schlesinger threatened Revkin directly with the “big cutoff” if he didn’t mend his ways. Was the language in the phony Heartland memo another attempt to try to shame Revkin into falling in line by suggesting he’s not hostile enough towards climate skeptics?

After Gleick’s semi-confession, Revkin wrote for the Times that “Gleick’s use of deception in pursuit of his cause after years of calling out climate deception has destroyed his credibility and harmed others,” and that his actions “surely will sustain suspicion that he created the summary [strategy memo].”

Gleick looks set to be spending a good chunk of his MacArthur genius prize winnings on lawyers; he’s retained the same criminal attorney that Andrew Fastow of Enron used for his defense against fraud charges. And Gleick has hired Clinton/Gore crisis manager Chris Lehane. Heartland, for its part, has set up a legal defense fund to pursue a civil case against Gleick, presenting the ultimate irony: -Gleick’s attack may well help Heartland raise more money.

More than a few observers have asked why anyone should trust Gleick’s scientific judgment if his judgment about how to deal with climate skeptics is so bad. -Gleick’s defense of his motives would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic: “My judgment was blinded by my frustration with the ongoing efforts​—​often anonymous, well-funded, and coordinated​—​to attack climate science and scientists and prevent this debate, and by the lack of transparency of the organizations involved.”

Let’s take these in order. Anony-mous? True, Heartland’s board documents reveal seven-figure contributions for their climate work from one “anonymous donor,” but environmental organizations take in many multiples of Heartland’s total budget in anonymous donations washed through the left-wing Tides Foundation. The Environmental Defense Fund thanks 141 anonymous donors in one recent report. “Well-funded”? Heartland’s total budget for all its issues, which include health care, education, and technology policy, is around $4.4 million, an amount that would disappear into a single line item in the budget for the Natural Resources Defense Council ($99 million in revenues in 2010). Last year, the Wall Street Journal reports, the World Wildlife Fund spent $68.5 million just on “public education.”

The dog that didn’t bark for the climateers in this story is the great disappointment that Heartland receives only a tiny amount of funding from fossil fuel sources​—​and none from ExxonMobil, still the bête noire of the climateers. Meanwhile, it was revealed this week that natural gas mogul T. Boone Pickens had given $453,000 to the left-wing Center for American Progress for its “clean energy” projects, and Chesapeake Energy gave the Sierra Club over $25 million (anonymously until it leaked out) for the Club’s anti-coal ad campaign. Turns out the greens take in much more money from fossil fuel interests than the skeptics do.

Finally, “coordinated”? Few public policy efforts have ever had the massive institutional and financial coordination that the climate change cause enjoys. That tiny Heartland, with but a single annual conference and a few phone-book-sized reports summarizing the skeptical case, can derange the climate campaign so thoroughly is an indicator of the weakness and thorough politicization of climate alarmism.

The Gleick episode exposes again a movement that disdains arguing with its critics, choosing demonization over persuasion and debate. A confident movement would face and crush its critics if its case were unassailable, as it claims. The climate change fight doesn’t even rise to the level of David and Goliath. Heartland is more like a David fighting a hundred Goliaths. Yet the serial ineptitude of the climate campaign shows that a tiny David doesn’t need to throw a rock against a Goliath who swings his mighty club and only hits himself square in the forehead.

Steven F. Hayward is the F. K. Weyerhaeuser fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author, most recently, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents: From Wilson to Obama (Regnery).


Weston to become waterfront eventually?

Want to see what a hurricane could do?

Jan Ellen Spiegel, CT MIRROR
January 9, 2012

Nobody had to convince Branford First Selectman Anthony "Unk" DaRos that the water level in Long Island Sound is higher than it used to be. He's spent four decades as a stonemason, much of it raising docks all along the shoreline

"Why would they build a dock that goes underwater at high tide," he asked. "Well they didn't."

And now after Tropical Storm Irene laid waste to several waterfront sections of his town, he's embarked on a flood-risk review of every town-owned structure.

He'll have access to more assistance than ever to do that. In the last year The Nature Conservancy has added its Coastal Resilience free web tool, developed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and others, to a growing number of similar ones that help communities map and analyze the potential effects of sea level rise and more frequent and virulent storms.

Connecticut is part of the Conservancy's initial project that includes Long Island and the New York City area. Its complex programming includes parameters for sea level rise and various storm intensities through 2080, with filters that show roads; critical structures like water treatment plants, schools and hospitals; various demographics like income; ecological effects such as salt marsh destruction; and economic factors like replacement cost.

Even some of the most conservative scenarios show dramatic results -- like the potential for flooding at Tweed Airport in New Haven, not far from where East Haven's Cosey Beach was devastated during Irene.

A white paper the Conservancy expects to release this month will show that a category three storm with the already existing sea level rise would result in temporary flooding in Connecticut of nearly 45,000 acres including 10 airports, five train stations, 645 miles of road and 131 miles of train tracks. Sea level rise alone, it reports, by 2020, could permanently flood 13,00 acres, six airports, 94 miles of road and 20 miles of train tracks.

"You start going from the coast of Connecticut to an archipelago," said Adam Whelchel, an ecologist who is director of science for the Conservancy in Connecticut. "This really wakes people up."

That's if the Conservancy or the state, which has an older -- also free -- mapping and analysis system called Coastal Hazards and Management Planning (CHAMP), can get their attention.

Communities remain largely unaware that these services -- the state's through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection -- are available, despite outreach efforts and the heightened awareness since Irene. Even Branford's DaRos, who is quoted by the Conservancy advocating Coastal Resilience as a management tool, has yet to use it.

In Fairfield, which also contended with high water during Irene, First Selectman Mike Tetreau was unaware the Greater Bridgeport Regional Council, of which Fairfield is a member, has information about Coastal Resilience on its website.

But Tetreau, who has a degree in civil engineering, said mapping is the least of it for a town of 50,000 that is volunteer-run. "Frankly, I'll admit it, we need help," he said. "These are bigger problems than one town can solve on our own."

He doesn't see how without expertise and financial support from government, especially federal, a town like Fairfield will be able to do things like figure out where to put its dump and water treatment plant, both now on the coast, not to mention all the gas and sewer lines and the 10,000 people who live between Route 1 and the Sound.

"You're talking about some very significant problems that may not hit for 100 years," he said. "But you may need 100 years to come up with the solution and affect the change."

While the state with its CHAMP tool and its soon-to-be-available and the Conservancy with Coastal Resilience say they are not in competition, there is a touch of rivalry. Coastal Resilience uses sea rise projections extrapolated from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international collaboration between the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization, for specific years. (Many scientists now think those predictions have become too conservative.) The DEEP model offers various levels with no time frame.

Jennifer Pagach, an environmental analyst specializing in climate change with DEEP, called Coastal Resilience a "great first step," but pointed out that the state also helps communities figure out how to address flooding.

"More important than what model you pick," she said, "Is that you get a sense of where the vulnerabilities are and what can you do rather than just looking at the maps and freaking out.

"You can't just show maps and scare people."

What the state and the Conservancy agree on is that sea level rise and storms already threaten infrastructure, and that job one is making local governments aware.

"It's a very serious concern and something we really need to start giving some serious thought to," said Brian Thompson, director of the office of Long Island Sound Programs at DEEP, who is also part of a group looking at adaptation strategies for climate change along the coast. "Irene was a pretty good preview of those areas that are vulnerable to impact."

Pagach has been working with the Town of Groton since 2008. "Forget about sea level rise and 2100 and how high it will be," said Michael Murphy, director of planning and development. "We have storm surge impacting us right now."

Murphy said mapping showed threats to roads and rail lines, the 30 percent of the town's pumping stations that are on the coast, some schools, and that areas like Groton Long Point could be isolated by storms.

The town is still years away from solutions to address flooding, let alone regulations that require sea level rise scenarios be included in planning, he said. But the biggest challenge will be money.

"Some of the alternatives to really prevent some of the communities from flooding are millions and millions of dollars," he said. "Who has that money?"

In Guilford, Town Planner George Kral is in the early stages of working with the Nature Conservancy. "The worst case scenarios, it's certainly sort of scary. On the other hand, it's 80 years from now," he said. "As town planner I can't really take that view. It's sort of in my job description to think about the long range."

To that end he's using a $26,000 grant from NOAA to help incorporate flood planning considerations into the town's comprehensive plan of conservation and development in the next year-and-a-half.

The Conservancy, while noting that neighboring Rhode Island has recently adopted new regulations to address sea level rise, said in a home rule state like Connecticut, such action would be extremely difficult. But it's considering promoting legislation that would at least authorize municipalities to do that if they so choose, and prescribe sea levels, updated each decade.

But Whelchel said getting communities to balance growth and environment can be difficult.

"Oftentimes you may have either fiscally or politically committed to a redevelopment project or a development project that will not be swayed or derailed by pesky things like sea level rise in 2080," he said.

Not to mention the psychological effects, said David Sutherland, the Conservancy's Connecticut director of governmental relations.

"Part of it is coming to grips with the fact that if we're lucky and we continue to defy the odds and we don't have a major hurricane, which we're overdue for, hopefully these folks and their children will get to still enjoy this," Sutherland said of people along the coast.

"But chances are your grandchildren are going to have to be somewhere else and how do we start reckoning for that and being deliberate about it?"

ALASKA:  Interesting link between permafrost, methane and global warming...

Where Did Global Warming Go?  (See above)
October 15, 2011

IN 2008, both the Democratic and Republican candidates for president, Barack Obama and John McCain, warned about man-made global warming and supported legislation to curb emissions. After he was elected, President Obama promised “a new chapter in America’s leadership on climate change,” and arrived cavalry-like at the 2009 United Nations Climate Conference in Copenhagen to broker a global pact.

But two years later, now that nearly every other nation accepts climate change as a pressing problem, America has turned agnostic on the issue.

In the crowded Republican presidential field, most seem to agree with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas that “the science is not settled” on man-made global warming, as he said in a debate last month. Alone among Republicans onstage that night, Jon M. Huntsman Jr. said that he trusted scientists’ view that the problem was real. At the moment, he has the backing of about 2 percent of likely Republican voters.

Though the evidence of climate change has, if anything, solidified, Mr. Obama now talks about “green jobs” mostly as a strategy for improving the economy, not the planet. He did not mention climate in his last State of the Union address. Meanwhile, the administration is fighting to exempt United States airlines from Europe’s new plan to charge them for CO2 emissions when they land on the continent. It also seems poised to approve a nearly 2,000-mile-long pipeline, from Canada down through the United States, that will carry a kind of oil. Extracting it will put relatively high levels of emissions into the atmosphere.

“In Washington, ‘climate change’ has become a lightning rod, it’s a four-letter word,” said Andrew J. Hoffman, director of the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Sustainable Development.

Across the nation, too, belief in man-made global warming, and passion about doing something to arrest climate change, is not what it was five years or so ago, when Al Gore’s movie had buzz and Elizabeth Kolbert’s book about climate change, “Field Notes From a Catastrophe,” was a best seller. The number of Americans who believe the earth is warming dropped to 59 percent last year from 79 percent in 2006, according to polling by the Pew Research Group. When the British polling firm Ipsos Mori asked Americans this past summer to list their three most pressing environmental worries, “global warming/climate change” garnered only 27 percent, behind even “overpopulation.”

This fading of global warming from the political agenda is a mostly American phenomenon. True, public enthusiasm for legislation to tackle climate change has flagged somewhat throughout the developed world since the recession of 2008. Nonetheless, in many other countries, legislation to control emissions has rolled out apace. Just last Wednesday, Australia’s House of Representatives passed a carbon tax, which is expected to easily clear the country’s Senate. Europe’s six-year-old carbon emissions trading system continues its yearly expansion. In 2010, India passed a carbon tax on coal. Even China’s newest five-year plan contains a limited pilot cap-and-trade system, under which polluters pay for excess pollution.

The United States is the “one significant outlier” on responding to climate change, according to a recent global research report produced by HSBC, the London-based bank. John Ashton, Britain’s special representative for climate change, said in an interview that “in the U.K., in Europe, in most places I travel to” — but not in the United States — “the starting point for conversation is that this is real, there are clear and present dangers, so let’s get a move on and respond.” After watching the Republican candidates express skepticism about global warming in early September, former President Bill Clinton put it more bluntly, “I mean, it makes us — we look like a joke, right?”

Americans — who produce twice the emissions per capita that Europeans do — are in many ways wired to be holdouts. We prefer bigger cars and bigger homes. We value personal freedom, are suspicious of scientists, and tend to distrust the kind of sweeping government intervention required to confront rising greenhouse gas emissions.

“Climate change presents numerous ideological challenges to our culture and our beliefs,” Professor Hoffman of the Erb Institute says. “People say, ‘Wait a second, this is really going to affect how we live!’ ”

There are, of course, other factors that hardened resistance: America’s powerful fossil-fuel industry, whose profits are bound to be affected by any greater control of carbon emissions; a cold American winter in 2010 that made global warming seem less imminent; and a deep recession that made taxes on energy harder to talk about, and job creation a more pressing issue than the environment — as can be seen in the debate over the pipeline from Canada.

But it is also true that Europe has endured a deep recession and has had mild winters. What’s more, some of the loudest climate deniers are English. Yet the European Union is largely on target to meet its goal of reducing emissions by at least 20 percent over 1990 levels by 2020.

Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s commissioner on climate action, told me recently: “Look, it was not a piece of cake here either.”

In fact, many countries in Europe have come to see combating climate change and the move to a “greener” economy as about “opportunities rather than costs,” Mr. Ashton said. In Britain, the low-carbon manufacturing sector has been one of the few to grow through the economic slump.

“One thing I’ve been pleasantly surprised about in the E.U. is that despite the economic and financial crisis, the momentum on climate change has more or less continued,” Mr. Ashton said.

And Conservatives, rather than posing an obstacle, are directing aggressive climate policies in much of the world. Before becoming the European Union’s commissioner for climate action, Ms. Hedegaard was a well-known Conservative politician in her native Denmark. In Britain, where a 2008 law required deep cuts in emissions, a coalition Conservative government is now championing a Green Deal.

In the United States, the right wing of the Republican Party has managed to turn skepticism about man-made global warming into a requirement for electability, forming an unlikely triad with antiabortion and gun-rights beliefs. In findings from a Pew poll this spring, 75 percent of staunch conservatives, 63 percent of libertarians and 55 percent of Main Street Republicans said there was no solid evidence of global warming.

“This has become a partisan political issue here in a way it has not elsewhere,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. “We are seeing doubts in the U.S. largely because the issue has become a partisan one, with Democrats” — 75 percent of whom say they believe there is strong evidence of climate change — “seeing one thing and Republicans another.”

Europeans understand the challenges in the United States, though they sound increasingly impatient. “We are very much aware of the political situation in the United States and we don’t say ‘do this,’ when we know it can’t get through Congress,” said Ms. Hedegaard, when she was in New York for the United Nations General Assembly last month. But she added:

“O.K. if you can’t commit today, when can you? When are you willing to join in? Australia is making a cap-and-trade system. South Korea is introducing one. New Zealand and the E.U. have it already. So when is the time? That’s the question for the U.S.”

MEANWHILE, in the developing world, emerging economies like India and China are now pursuing aggressive climate policies. “Two years ago the assumption was that the developed world would have to lead, but now China, India and Brazil have jumped in with enthusiasm, and are moving ahead,” said Nick Robins of HSBC Global Research.

Buffeted by two years of treacherous weather that they are less able to handle than richer nations — from floods in India to water shortages in China — developing countries are feeling vulnerable. Scientists agree that extreme weather events will be more severe and frequent on a warming planet, and insurance companies have already documented an increase.

So perhaps it is no surprise that regard for climate change as “a very serious problem” has risen significantly in many developing nations over the past two years. A 2010 Pew survey showed that more than 70 percent of people in China, India and South Korea were willing to pay more for energy in order to address climate change. The number in the United States was 38 percent. China’s 12th five-year plan, for 2011-2015, directs intensive investment to low carbon industries. In contrast, in the United States, there is “no prospect of moving ahead” at a national legislative level, Mr. Robins said, although some state governments are addressing the issue.

In private, scientific advisers to Mr. Obama say he and his administration remain committed to confronting climate change and global warming. But Robert E. O’Connor, program director for decision, risk and management sciences at the National Science Foundation in Washington, said a bolder leader would emphasize real risks that, apparently, now feel distant to many Americans. “If it’s such an important issue, why isn’t he talking about it?”

Elisabeth Rosenthal is a reporter and blogger on environmental issues for The New York Times.

The two Arctic passages combine to form a route right around the region

Russians seize Greenpeace vessel skippered by Norwalker
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
Posted: Friday, September 20, 2013 4:30 pm | Updated: 4:41 pm, Fri Sep 20, 2013.

NORWALK -- Capt. Peter Willcox, a Norwalk resident, is among the crew of a Greenpeace ship stormed by armed Russian Coast Guard officers following a protest against oil drilling in Arctic waters.  As of Friday, the Arctic Sunrise was being towed to port by the Coast Guard.

"It's a very touchy business," said Roger Willcox, his father, speaking from Norwalk on Friday. "I'm concerned always -- some crazy things can happen -- but this is his chosen profession."

Peter Willcox, 60, was captain of the first Rainbow Warrior when it was mined in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1985. Willcox was unharmed but a photographer aboard the vessel drowned.  His wife, Maggy Willcox, said Friday afternoon that she last heard from her husband about 36 hours earlier.

"It was a copy of an email he sent to the (Greenpeace) office saying, 'We're being board by the Russian Coast Guard. Everyone is okay,'" she said.

The Russian Coast Guard said Friday that the ship's captain refused to operate the Arctic Sunrise, so a Coast Guard ship arrived at the scene to tow the ship to the port of Murmansk. The trip is expected to take three to four days.  Russian officials said that Greenpeace activists could face terrorism or piracy charges.  A day earlier, two activists were arrested following an attempt to board an offshore drilling platform belonging to state natural gas company Gazprom. 

Maggie Willcox said Greenpeace International in Amsterdam was sending its legal team to Murmansk. She expressed hope that her husband and other crew members would be released promptly.  Joan Willcox said her stepson has been arrested before through his work with Greenpeace. He spent time in a Peruvian jail, had a brush in the Philippines and was chased by the Russians across the Bering Strait in 1982, she said. 
Still, the recent incident is unsettling for her.

"I don't like the way they came on with guns," Joan Willcox said.

One of the activists aboard the vessel, Faiza Oulahsen, told the Associated Press late on Thursday that about 15 armed men had boarded the Arctic Sunrise, aggressively herding 29 activists into one compartment. The vessel's captain was held separately on the bridge.

Peter Willcox grew up in the Village Creek section of South Norwalk with a father that had a passion for sailing and parents that promoted various social causes. He became a member of Greenpeace in 1981.

-- Hour Staff Writer Steve Kobak and The Associated Press

Arctic sea routes open as ice melts
By Richard Black Environment correspondent, BBC News
25 August 2011 Last updated at 12:42 ET

Two major Arctic shipping routes have opened as summer sea ice melts, European satellites have found.  Data recorded by the European Space Agency's (Esa) Envisat shows both Canada's Northwest Passage and Russia's Northern Sea Route open simultaneously.  This summer's melt could break the 2007 record for the smallest area of sea ice since the satellite era began in 1979.

Shipping companies are already eyeing the benefits these routes may bring if they remain open regularly.  The two lanes have been used by a number of small craft several times in recent years.  But the Northern Sea Route has been free enough of ice this month for a succession of tankers carrying natural gas condensate from the northern port of Murmansk to sail along the Siberian coast en route for Thailand.

"They're often open at the same time in the sense that with some ingenuity you can get through them," observed Peter Wadhams, an Arctic ice expert from the University of Cambridge.

"But this time they've really been open, with a proper Suez-size tanker going through the Northern Sea Route with a full cargo - that's a real step forward," he told BBC News.

A number of major shipping companies are looking to the opening of these routes to shorten journey times and make their businesses more efficient.  But environmental groups are concerned that the progressive ice loss will lead to increased exploration for oil and gas.  This, they argue, presents major safety hazards in the often inclement Arctic, as well as strengthening the world's reliance on fossil fuels and so ensuring the progression of man-made global warming - and the disintegration of summer sea ice cover.

Model figure

The Arctic sea ice has been melting fast this year, and for a while it appeared set to break the 2007 record for the smallest minimum area in the satellite record.  However, in recent weeks it has been running a narrow second to 2007.

"The minimum ice extent is still three to four weeks away, and a lot depends on the weather conditions over the Arctic during those weeks," said Leif Toudal Pedersen, senior scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute.

"Whether we reach an absolute minimum or not, this year again confirms that we are in a new regime with substantially less summer ice than before.

"The last five summers are the five minimum ice extent summers on record."

The volume of sea ice continues to decline annually.  Professor Wadhams believes the advent of summers where the two sea routes are routinely open is not far away.

"The Northwest Passage is probably the less reliable becaise you've got so many small passages in it where chance variations in wind will pile ice up and block it," he said.

"But so long as the ice retreats from the coast of Siberia, you'll have a route there."

Some computer models forecast that the Arctic could be completely clear of summer sea ice within a decade, though others recently published say there may be high years and low years en route to the final disappearance.  Canada and Russia are among the governments jockeying for position as new areas of the seabed open up for exploitation.


More on status of ice shelf here.

The movies can be educational, and sometimes a bit of a stretch - but it is hard to get attention otherwise. 
Or is this polar bear drowning in debt?  Story here.

Report on Dead Polar Bears Gets a Biologist Suspended
July 28, 2011

The federal government has suspended a wildlife biologist whose sightings of dead polar bears in Arctic waters became a rallying point for campaigners seeking to blunt the impact of global warming.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement notified the biologist, Charles Monnett, on July 18 that he had been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into “integrity issues,” according to a copy of a letter posted online by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Documents posted by the group indicate that the inquiry centers on a 2006 report that Dr. Monnett co-wrote on deaths among polar bears swimming in the Beaufort Sea.

Dr. Monnett and a co-author, Jeffrey Gleason, prepared the seven-page observational report for the peer-reviewed journal Polar Biology after spotting four dead polar bears during an aerial survey of bowhead whales in the Beaufort Sea in 2004. As word of the sightings spread, images of drowned polar bears became a staple for activists who warned that global warming and the retreat of sea ice were threatening the bears’ survival.

Dr. Monnett did not respond to a voicemail message left at his home near Anchorage. Efforts to reach Dr. Gleason were also unsuccessful.

So far there is no indication of personnel action taken against Dr. Gleason, who now works for the bureau in the Gulf of Mexico.

Jeffrey Loman, the ocean energy bureau’s deputy regional director for Alaska, who signed the July 18 letter informing Dr. Monnett that he was being placed on leave, declined to comment on Thursday on the reasons for the suspension. “It’s an ongoing investigation, and we don’t talk about these things, especially when it involves personnel matters,” he said.

On Thursday, the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which defends workers in the environmental field against what it regards as abuses, filed a complaint accusing the ocean energy bureau of scientific misconduct. It said that in banning Dr. Monnett from conducting scientific work, it had disrupted his research, including at least one continuing study of polar bears.

A spokeswoman for the bureau said management of all science remained in competent hands.

Transcripts of an interview with Dr. Monnett posted online by the public employees group indicate that the bureau’s inspector general is focusing on calculations that Dr. Monnett made to estimate a 75 percent mortality rate among bears caught in a mid-September storm in the open sea.

Aside from the order to take administrative leave, no other documents have been made available specifying the accusations against Dr. Monnett. But a transcript of a Feb. 23 interview of Dr. Monnett by two special agents for the bureau’s inspector general, posted online by the employees group, indicates that they questioned him about a contention in the 2006 report that no dead bears had been seen in aerial surveys for 17 years before the 2004 sighting.

Dr. Monnett said that information had been relayed by a predecessor in his position, Steve Treacy.

In an interview, Dr. Treacy said that when he was in charge of the surveys on Alaska’s North Slope, “We recorded all the polar bears we saw. If there were dead ones, we would have noted that as such.” He added, “I don’t remember anything in the way of dead polar bears.”

He said of Dr. Monnett: “I think his integrity is good. What I’ve seen of it, he’s an honest guy who would tend to treat fairly with the data.”

The polar bear report had been approved by Dr. Monnett’s superiors at the bureau, which until last year was called the Minerals Management Service. But the approval was short-lived. In the interview transcript, Dr. Monnett is quoted as saying that “we got blasted, you know, really hard, by the agency” after the reports of the drowned bears circulated.

At another point, he said of his superiors, “They don’t want any impediment to, you know, what they view as their mission, which is to, you know, drill wells up there” and “put areas into production.”

UA-led research sounds alarm on danger of rising sea levels
The Arizona Republic
Anne Ryman
Jul. 9, 2011 12:00 AM

A 1-meter increase in sea level doesn't sound like much.  But the 3.3-foot rise would be enough to flood 90 percent of New Orleans, 33 percent of Virginia Beach, Va., and 18 percent of Miami, according to scientists.
With the release of a University of Arizona-led study earlier this week, evidence continues to mount that the polar ice sheets are melting at a rate that could profoundly affect coastal regions unless greenhouse gases are reduced worldwide, scientists say.

"Sometime before the end of this century, we will cross that critical threshold where the Earth will be committed to 4, possibly more, meters (13.2 feet) of sea-level rise that could occur at a rate as high as a meter per century," said Jonathan Overpeck, a UA professor and atmospheric scientist.

He and other scientists aren't certain when that point will be reached, but he believes it could be in the middle of this century.  Overpeck is co-author of the UA study that examined the effect ocean warming will have on the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and predicted how much water temperatures could increase by the end of the century.  The research, published in the Nature Geoscience journal, predicts warmer oceans will cause the polar ice sheets to melt faster and cause sea levels to rise higher than previously thought.

The study comes as climate change and its potential impact on the Earth's environment remain a hotly debated topic. Some skepticism about whether climate change is occurring lingers, but much of the debate now centers on whether the causes are man-made. There is little political agreement internationally on how aggressive nations should be in trying to reverse the trend. Some leaders don't think anything can be done at all.

A report by the National Research Council, released earlier this year, said climate change is likely caused by man-made greenhouse-gas emissions and poses significant risks to humans and the environment. President Barack Obama has called for reduced pollution, and the federal stimulus directed more than $80 million toward clean-energy technology. Obama also ordered federal agencies to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 28 percent by 2020.

In December, a U.N. conference of 193 countries agreed to set up a fund to help developing nations use greener technology and methods. But the group delayed for a year decisions on reducing carbon emissions.

Scientific studies show that temperatures at the North and South polar areas are warming and their ice sheets are shrinking; the trend is only expected to continue.  In March, a nearly two-decade study of satellite images by NASA found that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are losing mass at an accelerated rate. The authors predicted that sea levels could rise as much as a foot by 2050, but they cautioned that there are many uncertainties in predicting ice loss.

Researchers are trying to better quantify the effects of global warming on polar ice sheets.  Much of the research has focused on the effects of warmer air, or atmospheric warming, on ice sheets. The UA study is unique in that it examined ocean warming. Ice sheets can also lose mass when the surrounding water warms.

UA scientists say ocean warming is perhaps even more damaging to ice sheets than atmospheric warming.  The reason is that water has a much larger heat capacity than air. An ice cube in a warm room will take several hours to melt, said UA professor Jianjun Yin, the lead author of the recent study. An ice cube in a cup of warm water will disappear in just a few minutes.

Yin's research predicts that subsurface ocean temperatures could rise as much as 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit along the Greenland coast and by nearly 1 degree along Antarctica by the end of the century. A few degrees may not sound like much. But because ice sheets are bathed in cold water, an increase of even a degree or two can have a profound effect, scientists say.

If the ocean warms as predicted, "we should see acceleration in the ice melt," said Joellen Russell, a UA professor who coauthored the study.  The UA study didn't quantify the exact impact the ocean warming would have on sea levels, but researchers at UA and other institutions say sea levels could rise by as many as 3.3 feet by the end of the century.

A growing number of studies published in the past couple of years try to predict sea levels more precisely.  In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body of scientists who assess climate change, estimated that sea levels could rise by up to nearly 2 feet by the end of the century. But that report didn't take into consideration the cumulative effects of melting sheet ice. Many scientists believe those projections are now too conservative.

UA's findings are similar to research published in May by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, an international group headquartered in Oslo, Norway, that conducts research and advises governments. That study, which looked at atmospheric temperatures, predicted Arctic temperatures in the fall and winter will increase over the next century. It also projected sea levels will rise 3 to 5 feet by the end of the century.

But a lot of questions remain.

Although scientists have estimated how much sea levels could rise over a given century, they are unsure of the pace of the rise within that century. They also want to better pinpoint how much sea levels could rise at specific locations along coasts.  If nothing is done to reverse global warming, fortifying the coasts to prevent flooding could be an expensive proposition, said Overpeck, the UA scientist.

"That money will come from taxpayers across the country, including Arizona," he said.

Climate change also could affect the state in other ways.  A notable change would be higher temperatures, including 130-degree heat in July by the end of the century, Overpeck said.  Scientists say that although it would be hard to stop global warming, the effects could be moderated.

"America's Climate Choices," a recent report released by the National Research Council, makes several recommendations, including substantially reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. The report advises investing in energy-efficient and low-carbon technologies as well as participating in international climate-change response efforts. U.S. efforts alone won't be enough, the report concluded.

The report said the U.S. will have to both contribute to and learn from other countries' efforts.

Chicheley Hall - more here (this is a Google photo cropped) host site for "G-20-like" discussion among scientists.  They wanted to be sure they didn't look too academic, so they instead chose a location that made the discussions even less connected to 21st century problems (our opinion)!

Somebody has been having fun watching old movies...this seems to "About Town" to not be a practical mass solution to the world hunger PLUS global warming issues.

Future farm: a sunless, rainless room indoors
By ARTHUR MAX, Associated Press – Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:05 am ET

DEN BOSCH, Netherlands – Farming is moving indoors, where the sun never shines, where rainfall is irrelevant and where the climate is always right.

The perfect crop field could be inside a windowless building with meticulously controlled light, temperature, humidity, air quality and nutrition. It could be in a New York high-rise, a Siberian bunker, or a sprawling complex in the Saudi desert.  Advocates say this, or something like it, may be an answer to the world's food problems.

"In order to keep a planet that's worth living on, we have to change our methods," says Gertjan Meeuws, of PlantLab, a private research company.

The world already is having trouble feeding itself. Half the people on Earth live in cities, and nearly half of those — about 3 billion — are hungry or malnourished. Food prices, currently soaring, are buffeted by droughts, floods and the cost of energy required to plant, fertilize, harvest and transport it.  And prices will only get more unstable. Climate change makes long-term crop planning uncertain. Farmers in many parts of the world already are draining available water resources to the last drop. And the world is getting more crowded: by mid-century, the global population will grow from 6.8 billion to 9 billion, the U.N. predicts.

To feed so many people may require expanding farmland at the expense of forests and wilderness, or finding ways to radically increase crop yields.  Meeuws and three other Dutch bioengineers have taken the concept of a greenhouse a step further, growing vegetables, herbs and house plants in enclosed and regulated environments where even natural light is excluded.

In their research station, strawberries, yellow peppers, basil and banana plants take on an eerie pink glow under red and blue bulbs of Light-Emitting Diodes, or LEDs. Water trickles into the pans when needed and all excess is recycled, and the temperature is kept constant. Lights go on and off, simulating day and night, but according to the rhythm of the plant — which may be better at shorter cycles than 24 hours — rather than the rotation of the Earth.

In a larger "climate chamber" a few miles away, a nursery is nurturing cuttings of fittonia, a colorful house plant, in two layers of 70 square meters (750 sq. feet) each. Blasts of mist keep the room humid, and the temperature is similar to the plants' native South America. After the cuttings take root — the most sensitive stage in the growing process — they are wheeled into a greenhouse and the chamber is again used for rooting. The process cuts the required time to grow a mature plant to six weeks from 12 or more.

The Dutch researchers say they plan to build a commercial-sized building in the Netherlands of 1,300 square meters (14,000 sq. feet), with four separate levels of vegetation by the end of this year. After that, they envision growing vegetables next to shopping malls, supermarkets or other food retailers.

Meeuws says a building of 100 sq meters (1,075 sq. feet) and 14 layers of plants could provide a daily diet of 200 grams (7 ounces) of fresh fruit and vegetables to the entire population of Den Bosch, about 140,000 people. Their idea is not to grow foods that require much space, like corn or potatoes. "We are looking at the top of the pyramid where we have high value and low volume," he said.

Sunlight is not only unnecessary but can be harmful, says Meeuws. Plants need only specific wavelengths of light to grow, but in nature they must adapt to the full range of light as a matter of survival. When light and other natural elements are manipulated, the plants become more efficient, using less energy to grow.

"Nature is good, but too much nature is killing," said Meeuws, standing in a steaming cubicle amid racks of what he called "happy plants."

For more than a decade the four researchers have been tinkering with combinations of light, soil and temperature on a variety of plants, and now say their growth rate is three times faster than under greenhouse conditions. They use no pesticides, and about 90 percent less water than outdoors agriculture. While LED bulbs are expensive, the cost is steadily dropping.

Olaf van Kooten, a professor of horticulture at Wageningen University who has observed the project but has no stake in it, says a kilogram (2.2 pounds) of tomatoes grown in Israeli fields needs 60 liters (16 gallons) of water, while those grown in a Dutch greenhouse require one-quarter of that. "With this system it is possible in principle to produce a kilo of tomatoes with a little over one liter of water," he said.

The notion of multistory greenhouses has been around for a while. Dickson Despommier, a retired Columbia University professor of environmental health and author of the 2010 book "The Vertical Farm," began working on indoor farming as a classroom project in 1999, and the idea has spread to several startup projects across the U.S.

"Over the last five year urban farming has really gained traction," Despommier said in a telephone interview.

Despommier argues that city farming means producing food near the consumer, eliminating the need to transport it long distances at great costs of fuel and spoilage and with little dependency on the immediate climate.

The science behind LED lighting in agriculture "is quite rigorous and well known," he said, and the costs are dropping dramatically. The next development, organic light-emitting diodes or OLEDs, which can be packed onto thin film and wrapped around a plant, will be even more efficiently tuned to its needs.

One of the more dramatic applications of plant-growing chambers under LED lights was by NASA, which installed them in the space Shuttle and the space station Mir in the 1990s as part of its experiment with microgravity.

"This system is a first clear step that has to grow," Van Kooten says, but more research is needed and people need to get used to the idea of sunless, landless agriculture.

"But it's clear to me a system like this is necessary."


Energy bill sought by Malloy wins final passage
Mark Pazniokas, CT MIRROR
June 7, 2011

In a bipartisan vote, the House of Representatives gave final approval Tuesday night to a complex bill sought by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and negotiated by his environmental commissioner to remake how Connecticut procures and regulates the generation, purchase and delivery of electricity.  The legislation approved 138 to 9 both refines and expands a sweeping energy bill passed last year on the final day of the session on a partisan vote, only to be vetoed by Malloy's Republican predecessor, Gov. M. Jodi Rell.

It creates a highly centralized power authority in a Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to be overseen by Commissioner Daniel C. Esty, who appears destined to become the most powerful state official outside the governor.

"We're going from one extreme to the other, from a disjointed system to a very centralized one," said Rep. Sean Williams, R-Watertown, a member of the Energy and Technology Committee.

Following a unanimous Senate vote Monday, the final action Tuesday is a vote of confidence in Esty and an expression of the willingness by politicians to accept a radical change in the hopes of lowering the cost of the most expensive electricity in the continental U.S.  The legislation delivers on a promise by Malloy, the first Democratic governor in 20 years, to modernize and expand the state's regulatory structure into an agency that can shape and quickly adapt to energy markets.

"We started off with a governor who made energy the focal point of his administration, and clearly he wanted an energy bill," said Rep. Vickie Nardello, D-Prospect, the co-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee. "He's the first governor in my 17 years here to make energy a priority."

It was passed with a broad, if tentative, consensus reached by the administration, Democratic and Republican legislators, and the electric industry, including Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating.  One industry source said the bill appears to be a thoughtful, balanced approach, but the sweep of its reach and the centralized power in hands of one commissioner inevitably leaves the various players unsettled.

"We have indeed centralized the agency. The commissioner has a great deal of authority, and with that goes a great deal of responsibility," Nardello said. "It's going to be our job as a legislature to ensure that authority is used properly."

Esty, 51, an energy adviser to Barack Obama's presidential campaign, is a Yale professor and author of nine books, including a volume that marked him as an environmentalist attuned to economics. Malloy named him commissioner the same day he proposed the new department.  Republicans were skeptical about some of Esty's energy market theories at his confirmation hearing, but the ranking Republicans on the Energy and Technology Committee, Rep. Laura Hoydick of Stratford and Sen. Kevin Witkos of Canton, praised his handling of the negotiations that produced a consensus bill.

House Minority Leader Lawrence F. Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, said in a partisan year, the energy bill "was a refreshing respite. It was a classic example of what you can do when you sit down with people on all sides of an issue."

Expectations will be high for the new agency. Connecticut has been a loser in the era of deregulation, when electricity became a commodity set by market price under a dizzying set of state and federal rules.

The state's two utilities, CL&P and UI, no longer generate power. They sold off their generating stations and now are simply a delivery system. They provide "standard service," competing with smaller companies that buy electricity and deliver it via the grid maintained by CL&P and UI.  The hope for the new energy authority is a nimble bureaucracy that can set policy and quickly react to market changes to help procure electricity at the best possible price. The old paradigm was reliability and stability over all else.

"It's just not part of the mission," Rep. Peter Tercyak, D-New Britain, said of lowering energy costs. "It's been about avoiding brown outs. Success should be a higher bar than that."

Electricity was purchased through a so-called "laddering system," an overlapping series of contracts. The new system allows shorter contracts, presumably allowing the state to capitalize on market changes.  The bill abolishes the five-member Public Utility Control Authority, the body that oversees the Department of Public Utility Control, and creates a three-member Public Utilities Regulatory Authority that will be part of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

The legislation restructures and expands the Clean Energy Fund and adds a new funding mechanism: the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority. The fund will look beyond rebates for solar energy to energy efficiency, electric vehicles and natural gas infrastructure.  Last year, the bill heavily favored solar as an alternative energy source for residential users. The bill passed Tuesday encourages energy sources that produce low or zero emissions, regardless of the technology.

Its final passage was applauded by business groups and environmentalists.  Joseph Brennan of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association said the group's members were optimistic that the new agency would help bring down energy costs.

"The passage of this bill begins to bring Connecticut's energy policies and infrastructure into the 21st century," said Charles Rothenberger, staff attorney for the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. "With the establishment of the DEEP, the state will be able to develop a real energy strategy for the first time."

Pomp, circumstance and a new era at the DEP
By Mark Pazniokas, CT MIRROR
March 18, 2011

The swearing-in of Daniel C. Esty as the new commissioner of environmental protection blossomed Friday into a celebration for Esty and a milestone for an agency that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy wants to quickly embrace a broader new mission.

Conservation officers in red dress tunics and flat-brimmed Stetsons snapped to attention as Malloy and Esty approached an auditorium crowded with curious employees, environmental advocates, legislators, utility regulators and a state labor leader.

Esty is one of Malloy's stars, a Yale professor with a national reputation for new ideas about reconciling environmentalism and economic growth. Malloy wants Esty to head a reconstituted agency that will safeguard the environment while acting as a catalyst for economic development and a watchdog over energy policy.

"I've asked Dan Esty to take this responsibility, to re-engineer this department with all of you in this room," Malloy said. "This new charge of this new department is very important."

Esty hopes to be the last commissioner of DEP and the first commissioner of a proposed Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which will require the approval of the General Assembly.

"It is a challenging time to be in government. We do have a lot to do to transform this department into a Department of Energy and Environmental Protection," Esty told his employees. "And as all of you who work here have heard me say, we're going to have a third 'E,' and that's the economy, in mind every day. We do have to contribute to the governor's agenda of rebuilding a platform for economic growth."

With blunt public comments about the need to streamline permitting procedures, the new commissioner already has stirred the bureaucracy at the DEP headquarters, a former insurance company home office down the hill from the State Capitol, across from Bushnell Park.

The building has many accouterments worthy of a corporate headquarters, including a sunny auditorium on an upper floor, where Esty took the oath of office from Malloy, who joked about size and plush wood paneling in his new commissioner's office.

More than almost any other state agency, the DEP is facing pressure to do business differently as it takes on an expanded mission, following years of a shrinking staff.

Malloy has proposed folding utility regulators into the new, expanded department. Several utility commissioners sat in the row behind Esty and his family. Across the aisle sat legislators, including co-chairs of the Environment Committee and the Energy and Technology Committee.

Behind them were DEP employees, environmental advocates and other guests, including John Olsen, the president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO.

"We're very enthusiastic about the way this administration has started," said Roger Reynolds, a senior attorney with the Connecticut Fund for the Environment. "Obviously, nothing has really happened yet. But we're very enthusiastic about the way things are moving."

Reynolds was among those who said the ceremony Friday conveyed the Malloy administration's ambitions for a department that has lost staff and, to a degree, credibility at the General Assembly.

"Did you see how surprised the DEP was that the governor had walked into the building? I mean, that really says something. This agency has been an afterthought. It hasn't got the resources and attention that an agency that is this central to the environment and the economy is," Reynolds said.

Malloy said he sees the expanded DEP, along with transportation and education policies and a reorganized economic-development agency as "really the front line of our job creation agenda over the next 10 and 20 years."

Environmentalists say they are comfortable with the new mission, if the agency still can perform its historic central role of environmental protection.

"This agency has always been central to the economy. If you don't get permits through, if you don't have the resources to staff adequately, if you don't reward good behavior and punish bad behavior, the economy is going to suffer," Reynolds said. "I don't think any of the recent governors in history have really understood that."

Chris Phelps, the program director of Environment Connecticut, a policy group, said many in the environmental movement already had embraced a broader view of environmentalism.

"It's about energy, environment and the economy," said Phelps, who also attended the ceremony. "These things are intertwined."

Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-Goshen, the ranking Republican on the Environment Committee, said Esty is a dynamo, perhaps the most impressive appointment by an administration that he sees as full of bright, energetic appointees.

Roraback, who was elected in 1994, the start of 16 years of Republican rule in the governor's office, said the Capitol needed a dramatic change.

"There was a staleness about the place, and it has been upended," he said.

But Roraback said the expectations are high, especially for Esty, whose portfolio of issues is vast. He said he knows that Esty has a work ethic to match his intellect--he has a habit of returning emails late into the night--but he will have to win over the bureaucracy.

"It's the same orchestra over there. They have a new conductor," Roraback said.

And amid the good feelings about a new, enthusiastic commissioner are questions about the efficiencies that Esty says he will bring to both the compliance and permitting functions of the department.

Malloy smiled when asked about the doubts.

"It's a demonstration of how broken Connecticut is that people don't think you can be efficient and environmentally friendly," Malloy said. "I know you can."

"We've got very smart people, and we have to empower them to do their jobs, to give them the right laws to do their jobs, and then we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard," he said. "And that's what I'm looking to do."

Legislators for Weston at Speak Up 2011:  Sen. Boucher and Rep. Shaban (who is on the Environment Committee)

F I R S T    T O    R E C O G N I Z E    T H A T    W E S T O N    N E E D S    T O    B E   A H E A D    O F    T H E    P R O B L E M ...
Selectmen appoint a SELECT COMMITTEE ON GLOBAL WARMING - picture story from Weston High School cafeteria.  Big crowd!!!  Not everyone there running for office...

FOLLOWING CTDEP ADVICE..."Hold a climate action event..."
CPTV video on global warming (what it means for CT) shown (in part)

They came, they listened, they saw, they talked, had fudge and picked their top 3 ideas, met in groups and signed up for CL&P list for clean energy - 90 families so far, goal is 340 but 100 is next level...
meanwhile, soccer enthusiasts keep playing into the night next door!  And now the Building Committee will begin meeting to find ALTERNATIVE ENERGY solutions for new and to be renovated Town Buildings!


Newer members and long time stalwarts unite to come up with concepts that fit into the long-range improvement plans for the Town of Weston's structures.   As of Spring 2009, this sub-committee reported back tot the full Building Committee, and dispanded

Esty: Alternative energy not a near-term solution for state

By Mark Pazniokas, CT MIRROR
March 16, 2011

NEW HAVEN--On the day his nomination was confirmed by the House, the new commissioner of environmental protection told a green jobs conference Wednesday that he does not see alternative energy as economically viable in the near future.

"I don't see an alternative source that meets the test of economic viability," Daniel C. Esty said. But the state must gradually transition away from fossil fuels, he said.

Esty said electricity generated by natural gas-fired turbines will remain Connecticut's cheapest and cleanest source of electricity for years to come, even as the state encourages innovation in renewable energy sources.

The new commissioner is Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's choice to oversee a department that Malloy intends to reorganize as the expanded Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Malloy wants Esty to help bring down the cost of electricity in Connecticut, currently among the most expensive in the U.S.

The conference, sponsored by The Connecticut Mirror, was held at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, putting Esty back on the campus where he has taught for 17 years.

The commissioner said he continues to be wary of efforts by government to "pick winners" in alternative energy, including a current legislative proposal to direct funds to solar energy.

Instead, he favors a portfolio of incentives to encourage innovation, letting science and the markets determine which technologies will succeed.

"It's all about incentives and investment," Esty said.

Esty promised rigorous enforcement of environmental law as he works to build partnerships with business to help generate jobs.

Esty, a former top official in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during the administration of the first President Bush, said the Malloy administration is trying to remake environmental protection.

By contrast, he said, the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to destroy the EPA with a 40 percent budget cut. "That's not a remake," Esty said.

Esty said he sees a leaner state Department of Environmental Protection that will have to set priorities.

"We can't continue to do everything," he said.

Esty said the department must continue to shorten the time DEP takes to review permit applications, noting it still takes 14 months to review an application to build or repair a dock.

"Frankly, that should take 14 days, perhaps less," he said.

Esty said he may end site inspections for dock applications, perhaps utilizing Google Earth instead.

"If I get the dock wrong, nobody's going to die," he said.

By prioritizing types of applications based on a risk, the department can devote greater resources to the review of projects with the potential for jeopardizing the environment or public health.

Droughts, Floods and Food
February 6, 2011

We’re in the midst of a global food crisis — the second in three years. World food prices hit a record in January, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. These soaring prices have had only a modest effect on U.S. inflation, which is still low by historical standards, but they’re having a brutal impact on the world’s poor, who spend much if not most of their income on basic foodstuffs.

The consequences of this food crisis go far beyond economics. After all, the big question about uprisings against corrupt and oppressive regimes in the Middle East isn’t so much why they’re happening as why they’re happening now. And there’s little question that sky-high food prices have been an important trigger for popular rage.

So what’s behind the price spike? American right-wingers (and the Chinese) blame easy-money policies at the Federal Reserve, with at least one commentator declaring that there is “blood on Bernanke’s hands.” Meanwhile, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France blames speculators, accusing them of “extortion and pillaging.”

But the evidence tells a different, much more ominous story. While several factors have contributed to soaring food prices, what really stands out is the extent to which severe weather events have disrupted agricultural production. And these severe weather events are exactly the kind of thing we’d expect to see as rising concentrations of greenhouse gases change our climate — which means that the current food price surge may be just the beginning.

Now, to some extent soaring food prices are part of a general commodity boom: the prices of many raw materials, running the gamut from aluminum to zinc, have been rising rapidly since early 2009, mainly thanks to rapid industrial growth in emerging markets.

But the link between industrial growth and demand is a lot clearer for, say, copper than it is for food. Except in very poor countries, rising incomes don’t have much effect on how much people eat.

It’s true that growth in emerging nations like China leads to rising meat consumption, and hence rising demand for animal feed. It’s also true that agricultural raw materials, especially cotton, compete for land and other resources with food crops — as does the subsidized production of ethanol, which consumes a lot of corn. So both economic growth and bad energy policy have played some role in the food price surge.

Still, food prices lagged behind the prices of other commodities until last summer. Then the weather struck.

Consider the case of wheat, whose price has almost doubled since the summer. The immediate cause of the wheat price spike is obvious: world production is down sharply. The bulk of that production decline, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, reflects a sharp plunge in the former Soviet Union. And we know what that’s about: a record heat wave and drought, which pushed Moscow temperatures above 100 degrees for the first time ever.

The Russian heat wave was only one of many recent extreme weather events, from dry weather in Brazil to biblical-proportion flooding in Australia, that have damaged world food production.

The question then becomes, what’s behind all this extreme weather?

To some extent we’re seeing the results of a natural phenomenon, La Niña — a periodic event in which water in the equatorial Pacific becomes cooler than normal. And La Niña events have historically been associated with global food crises, including the crisis of 2007-8.

But that’s not the whole story. Don’t let the snow fool you: globally, 2010 was tied with 2005 for warmest year on record, even though we were at a solar minimum and La Niña was a cooling factor in the second half of the year. Temperature records were set not just in Russia but in no fewer than 19 countries, covering a fifth of the world’s land area. And both droughts and floods are natural consequences of a warming world: droughts because it’s hotter, floods because warm oceans release more water vapor.

As always, you can’t attribute any one weather event to greenhouse gases. But the pattern we’re seeing, with extreme highs and extreme weather in general becoming much more common, is just what you’d expect from climate change.

The usual suspects will, of course, go wild over suggestions that global warming has something to do with the food crisis; those who insist that Ben Bernanke has blood on his hands tend to be more or less the same people who insist that the scientific consensus on climate reflects a vast leftist conspiracy.

But the evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world. And given our failure to act on greenhouse gases, there will be much more, and much worse, to come.

Environmental groups holding off on climate change legislation
Christine Woodside
December 14, 2010

Environmental lobbyists have decided not to push for a bill to prepare coastal and riverfront municipalities for climate change this session, saying cities and towns aren't ready for a law until they learn more about what's to come.

"I think we anticipate doing that, but probably not this year," said David Sutherland, director of government relations for the Nature Conservancy's Connecticut chapter. "I haven't closed the door completely on it, but I think at this point we still need to do some legwork with some local communities we've been talking with."

He said it's "a complicated issue." Scientists expect that increased flooding and high-tide marks will threaten people and wildlife's safety and cost cities and towns a lot of money if they have to rebuild or fix sewage treatment plants and coastal roads, walls, and buildings in the coming decades.

"I think we're becoming more aware of some of the complexities and some of the issues," Sutherland said. Sutherland said he's spent a lot of time meeting with municipal leaders who need time to figure out how they would plan and pay for such things.

The last climate legislation passed in Connecticut, in 2008, established goals for reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in an effort to reduce global warming; the first target date is in 2020.

At the same time, a subcommittee of the Governor's Steering Committee on Climate Change has been developing plans to help the state prepare for the effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, diminishing snow and more rain.

"We're not trying to scare people," said Bob Kaliszewski, director of planning and program development for the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection and a member of the Adaptation Subcommittee. He said the group is charged with helping the state be prepared.  Its next report, on how Connecticut should adapt to changes that scientists have outlined in hundreds of studies, is due out soon, probably in January. Committee members say they hope citizens will read it and participate in public hearings.

The group is a little skittish about that because its first report, which documented the basics of what's happening and expected to happen in the Northeast, was issued in April to almost no notice.  Members of the committee said that the new report deals with conditions that are here now or will be in a decade and later, and offers specific actions to deal with them.

Among the recommendations likely to appear in the new report:

    * Farmers must be ready to adapt to changing weather patterns. In its earlier report, the climate committee said that the dairy industry, maple syrup production, and apple and pear farming, among others, will suffer here for the long-term. New practices and crops might have to replace these. The report also will outline which pests could get worse and how farmers ought to deal with them.

    * The state must reinforce its infrastructure. Because Connecticut is, on average getting wetter, with more rain each year, and because the sea level is rising, the state must reinforce roads, dams, sea walls, sewage treatment plants, and certain buildings to prepare. State, regional, and local agencies will have to coordinate their work to bolster facilities. The report will list ways to alter building codes to account for more intense occasional storms expected.

    * Health problems will accompany the changes. Increasing rain aside, periodic droughts and more intense heat waves are expected to threaten public health. The report will outline steps health agencies should take to protect vulnerable people from more intense heat waves, and all people from longer seasons for disease-causing mosquitoes and ticks.

    * Because climate change will alter and in some cases threaten natural resources like beaches, marshes, certain species of animals and plants, the report will list specific places and species that ought to be protected.

The two adaptation committee members who are overseeing the new report are Kaliszewski and Roslyn Reeps, an environmental analyst at the Connecticut DEP. The report relies on a large science-based study, the Northeast Climate Impacts Assessment, done by the Union of Concerned Scientists and more than 50 independent experts.

The Connecticut committee also uses data gathered from various sources by the city of New York, which has been working longer than Connecticut has on practical plans for changing conditions. New York's program, known as Planyc, uses committees that include scientists and policy makers. The group has studied a radius around New York that includes Connecticut.

Public meetings in advance of the Connecticut adaptation committee's first report drew very few citizens to comment, Kaliszewski said. "We didn't get the participation we expected. It was in the total of a dozen."

He added, "Some of the people who came wanted to argue with whether climate change was happening or not," he said. "We are avoiding engaging in that debate."

Kaliszewski said that the most likely scenario in New England is that climate change's realities will unfold very slowly, over generations. "People will see the change gradually and may not recognize it," he said. "The people it impacts, the guy who relies on maple sugar production for this farm, he may be fine, but the next generation that takes over his farm might have to do something different."

Dennis Schain, spokesman for the DEP, said that some people concerned about climate change resist efforts to adapt to the changes, stressing instead that we ought to try to stop accelerated climate change that is attributed to people's burning of fuels.

"This isn't a substitute for mitigation," he said. "We still continue full steam ahead with efforts to reduce emissions at the same time we are looking at adaptation."

As world warms, negotiators give talks another try
By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
20 November 2010

NEW YORK – The last time the world warmed, 120,000 years ago, the Cancun coastline was swamped by a 7-foot (2.1-meter) rise in sea level in a few decades. A week from now at that Mexican resort, frustrated negotiators will try again to head off a new global deluge.

The disappointment of Copenhagen — the failure of the annual U.N. conference to produce a climate agreement last year in the Danish capital — has raised doubts about whether the long-running, 194-nation talks can ever agree on a legally binding treaty for reining in global warming.

"It's clear after Copenhagen that the U.N. process is `on probation,'" acknowledged Alden Meyer of the Washington-based Union of Concerned Scientists, a veteran observer and supporter of the process.

Even the Mexican hosts of the Nov. 29-Dec. 10 U.N. conference question whether "it is the best way to work — with 194 countries," as Mexico's environment secretary, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, put it.

"We must be really open and sincere. Do we need to make an evolution to a new methodology?" Elvira asked in an Associated Press interview.

The core failure has been in finding a consensus formula for mandatory reductions in countries' emissions of carbon dioxide and other global warming gases, byproducts of power plants, other industries, agriculture and automobiles.

For 13 years, the United States has refused to join the rest of the industrialized world in the Kyoto Protocol, a binding pact to curb fossil-fuel emissions by modest amounts. More recently, as China, India and other emerging economies exempted from the 1997 Kyoto pact have sharply increased emissions, they have rejected calls by the U.S. and others to commit by treaty to restraints.

No one expects Cancun to resolve that standoff. Instead, delegates will focus on climate financial aid, deforestation and other secondary "building blocks" to try to revive momentum toward an umbrella deal at next year's conference in South Africa or at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 2012.

"We expect a positive attitude and a restoration of confidence in the multilateral system at Cancun," said Grenada's U.N. ambassador, Dessima Williams, chair of an alliance of island nations already facing early impacts of climate change.

While the global talks plod along, those impacts seem to be accelerating.

The world's warming oceans, for example, are rising at twice the 20th century's average rate, expanding from the heat and the runoff of melting land ice, says the Geneva-based World Climate Research Program. More ice is melting in Greenland and Antarctica than earlier thought, worried scientists report. Authoritative projections of 2007 — that seas might rise by up to 0.59 meters (1.94 feet) by 2100 — now appear too conservative.

The Yucatan peninsula, where the upcoming talks will take place, once experienced how quickly warming can remake coastlines. Researchers studying fossilized reefs near Cancun report that waters rose at least two meters (6.6 feet) in as little as 50 years during the last "interglacial," or natural warming period between cold, or glacial, ages.

Temperatures then, 120 millennia ago, were only 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than today, some 12,000 years into the current interglacial. In their 2007 assessment, the U.N. network of climate scientists projected temperatures will rise this century by up to 6.4 degrees C (11.5 degrees F), depending on whether and how much emissions are rolled back.

The U.N. network — the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — recommended emissions be cut by 25 to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees C (3.6 F) above preindustrial levels. They already rose 0.7 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) in the 20th century.

In a nonbinding "Copenhagen Accord" from the 2009 conference, industrialized nations pledged reductions of only 18 percent overall, analysts say. The U.S. pledged a 3 percent reduction. China and other developing nations said they would work to rein in emissions growth.

Only a binding treaty with deep reductions can ensure the world will avoid the worst environmental upheavals of climate change, scientists and conservationists say. But the takeover of the U.S. House of Representatives by Republicans, many of whom dismiss strong scientific evidence of human-caused warming, all but rules out U.S. action for at least two years.

Instead, the Cancun negotiators hope at least for agreement on a "green fund" to disburse aid that developed countries promised at Copenhagen — $100 billion a year by 2020 — for developing countries to adapt to a changing climate by building seawalls and shifting farming patterns, for example, and to install clean energy sources.

The developing world hopes, too, for better terms for transferring patented green technology from richer nations. In a third area, delegates aim to make progress on the complex issue of compensating poorer nations for protecting their forests, key to the planet's ability to absorb carbon dioxide.

Parallel to the U.N. talks, often with U.S. leadership, governments have been making limited, voluntary side deals to chip away at emissions. That's "laudable and helpful," Grenada's Williams said, but "we have to go beyond that, to take collective action."

Encroaching seas already are contaminating drinking water and damaging housing in low-lying islands, she said. "It is overwhelming our capacity to stay alive."

As Glaciers Melt, Scientists Seek New Data on Rising Seas
November 13, 2010

TASIILAQ, Greenland — With a tense pilot gripping the stick, the helicopter hovered above the water, a red speck of machinery lost in a wilderness of rock and ice.

To the right, a great fjord stretched toward the sea, choked with icebergs. To the left loomed one of the immense glaciers that bring ice from the top of the Greenland ice sheet and dump it into the ocean.

Hanging out the sides of the craft, two scientists sent a measuring device plunging into the water, between ice floes. Near the bottom, it reported a temperature of 40 degrees. It was the latest in a string of troubling measurements showing that the water was warm enough to melt glaciers rapidly from below.

“That’s the highest we’ve seen this far up the fjord,” said one of the scientists, Fiammetta Straneo.

The temperature reading was a new scrap of information in the effort to answer one of the most urgent — and most widely debated — questions facing humanity: How fast is the world’s ice going to melt?

Scientists long believed that the collapse of the gigantic ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica would take thousands of years, with sea level possibly rising as little as seven inches in this century, about the same amount as in the 20th century.

But researchers have recently been startled to see big changes unfold in both Greenland and Antarctica.

As a result of recent calculations that take the changes into account, many scientists now say that sea level is likely to rise perhaps three feet by 2100 — an increase that, should it come to pass, would pose a threat to coastal regions the world over.

And the calculations suggest that the rise could conceivably exceed six feet, which would put thousands of square miles of the American coastline under water and would probably displace tens of millions of people in Asia.

The scientists say that a rise of even three feet would inundate low-lying lands in many countries, rendering some areas uninhabitable. It would cause coastal flooding of the sort that now happens once or twice a century to occur every few years. It would cause much faster erosion of beaches, barrier islands and marshes. It would contaminate fresh water supplies with salt.

In the United States, parts of the East Coast and Gulf Coast would be hit hard. In New York, coastal flooding could become routine, with large parts of Queens and Brooklyn especially vulnerable. About 15 percent of the urbanized land in the Miami region could be inundated. The ocean could encroach more than a mile inland in parts of North Carolina.

Abroad, some of the world’s great cities — London, Cairo, Bangkok, Venice and Shanghai among them — would be critically endangered by a three-foot rise in the sea.

Climate scientists readily admit that the three-foot estimate could be wrong. Their understanding of the changes going on in the world’s land ice is still primitive. But, they say, it could just as easily be an underestimate as an overestimate. One of the deans of American coastal studies, Orrin H. Pilkey of Duke University, is advising coastal communities to plan for a rise of at least five feet by 2100.

“I think we need immediately to begin thinking about our coastal cities — how are we going to protect them?” said John A. Church, an Australian scientist who is a leading expert on sea level. “We can’t afford to protect everything. We will have to abandon some areas.”

Sea-level rise has been a particularly contentious element in the debate over global warming. One published estimate suggested the threat was so dire that sea level could rise as much as 15 feet in this century. Some of the recent work that produced the three-foot projection was carried out specifically to counter more extreme calculations.

Global warming skeptics, on the other hand, contend that any changes occurring in the ice sheets are probably due to natural climate variability, not to greenhouse gases released by humans.

Such doubts have been a major factor in the American political debate over global warming, stalling efforts by Democrats and the Obama administration to pass legislation that would curb emissions of heat-trapping gases. Similar legislative efforts are likely to receive even less support in the new Congress, with many newly elected legislators openly skeptical about climate change.

A large majority of climate scientists argue that heat-trapping gases are almost certainly playing a role in what is happening to the world’s land ice. They add that the lack of policies to limit emissions is raising the risk that the ice will go into an irreversible decline before this century is out, a development that would eventually make a three-foot rise in the sea look trivial.

Melting ice is by no means the only sign that the earth is warming. Thermometers on land, in the sea and aboard satellites show warming. Heat waves, flash floods and other extreme weather events are increasing. Plants are blooming earlier, coral reefs are dying and many other changes are afoot that most climate scientists attribute to global warming.

Yet the rise of the sea could turn out to be the single most serious effect. While the United States is among the countries at greatest risk, neither it nor any other wealthy country has made tracking and understanding the changes in the ice a strategic national priority.

The consequence is that researchers lack elementary information. They have been unable even to measure the water temperature near some of the most important ice on the planet, much less to figure out if that water is warming over time. Vital satellites have not been replaced in a timely way, so that American scientists are losing some of their capability to watch the ice from space.

The missing information makes it impossible for scientists to be sure how serious the situation is.

“As a scientist, you have to stick to what you know and what the evidence suggests,” said Gordon Hamilton, one of the researchers in the helicopter. “But the things I’ve seen in Greenland in the last five years are alarming. We see these ice sheets changing literally overnight.”

Dodging Icebergs

In the brilliant sunshine of a late summer day in southeastern Greenland, the pilot at the controls of the red helicopter, Morgan Goransson, dropped low toward the water. He used the downdraft from his rotor to clear ice from the surface of Sermilik Fjord.

The frigid waters were only 30 feet below, so any mechanical problem would have sent the chopper plunging into the sea. “It is so dangerous,” Mr. Goransson said later that night, over a fish dinner.

Taking the temperature of waters near the ice sheet is essential if scientists are to make sense of what is happening in Greenland. But it is a complex and risky business.

The two scientists — Dr. Straneo, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, and Dr. Hamilton, of the University of Maine — are part of a larger team that has been traveling here every summer with financing from the National Science Foundation, the federal agency that sponsors much of the nation’s most important research. Not only do they remove the doors of helicopters and lean over icy fjords to get their readings, but they dodge huge icebergs in tiny boats and traipse over glaciers scarred by crevasses that could swallow large buildings.

The reading that the scientists obtained a few weeks ago, of 40 degrees near the bottom of the fjord, fit a broader pattern that researchers have been detecting in the past few years.

Water that originated far to the south, in warmer parts of the Atlantic Ocean, is flushing into Greenland’s fjords at a brisk pace. Scientists suspect that as it melts the ice from beneath, the warm water is loosening the connection of the glaciers to the ground and to nearby rock.

The effect has been something like popping a Champagne cork, allowing the glaciers to move faster and dump more ice into the ocean. Within the past decade, the flow rate of many of Greenland’s biggest glaciers has doubled or tripled. Some of them have eventually slowed back down, but rarely have they returned to their speed of the 1990s.

Two seismologists, Meredith Nettles and Göran Ekström of Columbia University, discovered a few years ago that unusual earthquakes were emanating from the Greenland glaciers as they dumped the extra ice into the sea. “It’s remarkable that an iceberg can do this, but when that loss of ice occurs, it does generate a signal that sets up a vibration that you can record all across the globe,” Dr. Nettles said in an interview in Greenland.

Analyzing past records, they discovered that these quakes had increased severalfold from the level of the early 1990s, a sign of how fast the ice is changing.

Satellite and other measurements suggest that through the 1990s, Greenland was gaining about as much ice through snowfall as it lost to the sea every year. But since then, the warmer water has invaded the fjords, and air temperatures in Greenland have increased markedly. The overall loss of ice seems to be accelerating, an ominous sign given that the island contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by more than 20 feet.

Strictly speaking, scientists have not proved that human-induced global warming is the cause of the changes. They are mindful that the climate in the Arctic undergoes big natural variations. In the 1920s and ’30s, for instance, a warm spell caused many glaciers to retreat.

John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who is often critical of mainstream climate science, said he suspected that the changes in Greenland were linked to this natural variability, and added that he doubted that the pace would accelerate as much as his colleagues feared.

For high predictions of sea-level rise to be correct, “some big chunks of the Greenland ice sheet are going to have to melt, and they’re just not melting that way right now,” Dr. Christy said.

Yet other scientists say that the recent changes in Greenland appear more pervasive than those of the early 20th century, and that they are occurring at the same time that air and ocean temperatures are warming, and ice melt is accelerating, throughout much of the world.

Helheim Glacier, which terminates in Sermilik Fjord, is one of a group of glaciers in southeastern Greenland that have shown especially big changes.

On a recent day, the red helicopter landed on a rocky outcrop above the glacier, a flowing river of ice about 25 miles long and nearly four miles wide. On the side of the canyon, Dr. Hamilton pointed toward a band of light-colored rock.

It was, in essence, a bathtub ring.

Something caused the glacier, one of Greenland’s largest, to speed up sharply in the middle of the last decade, and it spit so much ice into the ocean that it thinned by some 300 feet in a few years. A part of the canyon that was once shielded from the sun by ice was thus left exposed.

The glacier has behaved erratically ever since, and with variations, that pattern is being repeated all over Greenland. “All these changes are happening at a far faster pace than we would have ever predicted from our conventional theories,” Dr. Hamilton said.

A few days after the helicopter trip, an old Greenlandic freighter nudged its way gingerly up Sermilik Fjord, which was so choked with ice that the boat had to stop well short of its goal. “You have to be flexible to work out here,” said the leader of the team that day, Dr. Straneo of Woods Hole.

Soon she was barking orders, and her team swung into motion. A cold, Arctic drizzle fell on the boat and the people. Off the port side in a rickety skiff, David Sutherland, a young scientist at the University of Washington, tossed a floating buoy, carrying a string of instruments, into the water, and an anchor snatched it below the surface. Over the next year, it will measure temperature, currents and other factors in the fjord.

Dr. Sutherland climbed back aboard the freighter with cold, wet feet. As the boat headed back to port, it passed icebergs the size of city blocks, chunks of the Greenland ice sheet bound for the open sea.

An Ocean in Flux

The strongest reason to think that the level of the sea could undergo big changes in the future is that it has done so in the past.

With the waxing and waning of ice ages, driven by wobbles in the earth’s orbit, sea level has varied by hundreds of feet, with shorelines moving many miles in either direction. “We’re used to the shoreline being fixed, and it’s not,” said Robin E. Bell, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

But at all times in the past, when the shoreline migrated, humans either had not evolved yet or consisted of primitive bands of hunter-gatherers who could readily move. By the middle of this century, a projected nine billion people will inhabit the planet, with many millions of them living within a few feet of sea level.

To a majority of climate scientists, the question is not whether the earth’s land ice will melt in response to the greenhouse gases those people are generating, but whether it will happen too fast for society to adjust.

Recent research suggests that the volume of the ocean may have been stable for thousands of years as human civilization has developed. But it began to rise in the 19th century, around the same time that advanced countries began to burn large amounts of coal and oil.

The sea has risen about eight inches since then, on average. That sounds small, but on a gently sloping shoreline, such an increase is enough to cause substantial erosion unless people intervene. Governments have spent billions in recent decades pumping sand onto disappearing beaches and trying to stave off the loss of coastal wetlands.

Scientists have been struggling for years to figure out if a similar pace of sea-level rise is likely to continue in this century — or whether it will accelerate. In its last big report, in 2007, the United Nations group that assesses climate science, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that sea level would rise at least seven more inches, and might rise as much as two feet, in the 21st century.

But the group warned that these estimates did not fully incorporate “ice dynamics,” the possibility that the world’s big ice sheets, as well as its thousands of smaller glaciers and ice caps, would start spitting ice into the ocean at a much faster rate than it could melt on land. Scientific understanding of this prospect was so poor, the climate panel said, that no meaningful upper limit could be put on the potential rise of sea level.

That report prompted fresh attempts by scientists to calculate the effect of ice dynamics, leading to the recent, revised projections of sea-level rise.

Satellite evidence suggests that the rise of the sea accelerated late in the 20th century, so that the level is now increasing a little over an inch per decade, on average — about a foot per century. Increased melting of land ice appears to be a major factor. Another is that most of the extra heat being trapped by human greenhouse emissions is going not to warm the atmosphere but to warm the ocean, and as it warms, the water expands.

With the study of the world’s land ice still in its early stages, scientists have lately been trying crude methods to figure out how much the pace might accelerate in coming decades.

One approach, pioneered by a German climate researcher named Stefan Rahmstorf, entails looking at the past relationship between the temperature of the earth and sea level, then making projections. Another, developed by a University of Colorado glaciologist named Tad Pfeffer, involves calculations about how fast the glaciers, if they keep speeding up, might be able to dump ice into the sea.

Those two methods yield approximately the same answer: that sea level could rise by 2 1/2 to 6 1/2 feet between now and 2100. A developing consensus among climate scientists holds that the best estimate is a little over three feet.

Calculations about the effect of a three-foot increase suggest that it would cause shoreline erosion to accelerate markedly. In places that once flooded only in a large hurricane, the higher sea would mean that a routine storm could do the trick. In the United States, an estimated 5,000 square miles of dry land and 15,000 square miles of wetlands would be at risk of permanent inundation, though the actual effect would depend on how much money was spent protecting the shoreline.

The worst effects, however, would probably occur in areas where land is sinking even as the sea rises. Some of the world’s major cities, especially those built on soft sediments at the mouths of great rivers, are in that situation. In North America, New Orleans is the premier example, with large parts of the city already sitting several feet below sea level.

Defenses can be built to keep out the sea, of course, like the levees of the New Orleans region and the famed dikes of the Netherlands. But the expense is likely to soar as the ocean rises, and such defenses are not foolproof, as Hurricane Katrina proved.

Storm surges battering the world’s coastlines every few years would almost certainly force people to flee inland. But it is hard to see where the displaced would go, especially in Asia, where huge cities — and even entire countries, notably Bangladesh — are at risk.

Moreover, scientists point out that if their projections prove accurate, the sea will not stop rising in 2100. By that point, the ice sheets could be undergoing extensive melting.

“Beyond a hundred years out, it starts to look really challenging,” said Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University. “You start thinking about every coastal city on the planet hiding behind a wall, with storms coming.”

A Shortage of Satellites

One Saturday morning a few months back, a University of Colorado student named Scott Potter, sitting in a control room on the Boulder campus, typed a word into a computer.


Over the next 40 seconds, indicators in the control room turned red. Alarms rang. Pagers buzzed. High above the earth, a satellite called ICESat, reacting to Mr. Potter’s order, prepared itself to die.

The commotion was expected. Mr. Potter, one of several Colorado students who hold part-time jobs as satellite controllers under professional supervision, was doing the bidding of NASA. His command that day formally ended the ICESat mission, which had produced crucial information about the world’s ice sheets for seven years.

At the end of August, two weeks after Mr. Potter sent his order, the remains of ICESat plunged into the Barents Sea, off the Russian coast. Its demise was seen by many climate researchers as a depressing symbol.

After a decade of budget cuts and shifting space priorities in Washington, several satellites vital to monitoring the ice sheets and other aspects of the environment are on their last legs, with no replacements at hand. A replacement for ICESat will not be launched until 2015 at the earliest.

“We are slowly going blind in space,” said Robert Bindschadler, a polar researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who spent 30 years with NASA studying ice.

Several federal agencies and two presidential administrations, Democratic and Republican, have made decisions that contributed to the problems.

For instance, an attempt by the Clinton and Bush administrations to combine certain military and civilian satellites ate up $5 billion before it was labeled a “horrendous and costly failure” by a Congressional committee.

A plan by President George W. Bush to return to the moon without allocating substantial new money squeezed budgets at NASA.

Now, the Obama administration is seeking to chart a new course, abandoning the goal of returning to the moon and seeking a substantial increase in financing for earth sciences. It is also promising an overall strategy for improving the country’s environmental observations.

Major elements of the administration’s program won support from both parties on Capitol Hill and were signed into law recently, but amid a larger budget impasse, Congress has not allocated the money President Obama requested.

In the meantime, NASA is spending about $15 million a year to fly airplanes over ice sheets and glaciers to gather some information it can no longer get by satellite, and projects are under way in various agencies to plug some of the other information gaps. NASA has begun planning new satellites to replace the ones that are aging.

“The missions that are being designed right now are fantastic,” said Tom Wagner, who runs NASA’s ice programs.

The satellite difficulties are one symptom of a broader problem: because no scientifically advanced country has made a strategic priority of studying land ice, scientists lack elementary information that they need to make sense of what is happening.

They do not know the lay of the land beneath most of the world’s glaciers, including many in Greenland, in sufficient detail to calculate how fast the ice might retreat. They have only haphazard readings of the depth and temperature of the ocean near Greenland, needed to figure out why so much warm water seems to be attacking the ice sheet.

The information problems are even more severe in Antarctica. Much of that continent is colder than Greenland, and its ice sheet is believed to be more stable, over all. But in recent years, parts of the ice sheet have started to flow rapidly, raising the possibility that it will destabilize in the same way that much of the world’s other ice has.

Certain measurements are so spotty for Antarctica that scientists have not been able to figure out whether the continent is losing or gaining ice. Scientists do not have good measurements of the water temperature beneath the massive, floating ice shelves that are helping to buttress certain parts of the ice sheet in West Antarctica. Since the base of the ice sheet sits below sea level in that region, it has long been thought especially vulnerable to a warming ocean.

But the cavities beneath ice shelves and floating glaciers are difficult to reach, and scientists said that too little money had been spent to develop technologies that could provide continuing measurements.

Figuring out whether Antarctica is losing ice over all is essential, because that ice sheet contains enough water to raise global sea level by nearly 200 feet. The parts that appear to be destabilizing contain water sufficient to raise it perhaps 10 feet.

Daniel Schrag, a Harvard geochemist and head of that university’s Center for the Environment, praised the scientists who do difficult work studying ice, but he added, “The scale of what they can do, given the resources available, is just completely out of whack with what is required.”

Climate scientists note that while the science of studying ice may be progressing slowly, the world’s emissions of heat-trapping gases are not. They worry that the way things are going, extensive melting of land ice may become inevitable before political leaders find a way to limit the gases, and before scientists even realize such a point of no return has been passed.

“The past clearly shows that sea-level rise is getting faster and faster the warmer it gets,” Dr. Rahmstorf said. “Why should that process stop? If it gets warmer, ice will melt faster.”

Op-Ed Columnist
How the G.O.P. Goes Green
February 28, 2010

It is early evening on Capitol Hill, and I am sitting with Senator Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican, who, along with John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, is trying to craft a new energy bill — one that could actually win 60 votes. What is interesting about Graham is that he has been willing — courageously in my view — to depart from the prevailing G.O.P. consensus that the only energy policy we need is “drill, baby, drill.”

What brought you around, I ask? Graham’s short answer: politics, jobs and legacy. We start with politics. The Republican Party today has a major outreach problem with two important constituencies, “Hispanics and young people,” Graham explains:

“I have been to enough college campuses to know if you are 30 or younger this climate issue is not a debate. It’s a value. These young people grew up with recycling and a sensitivity to the environment — and the world will be better off for it. They are not brainwashed. ... From a Republican point of view, we should buy into it and embrace it and not belittle them. You can have a genuine debate about the science of climate change, but when you say that those who believe it are buying a hoax and are wacky people you are putting at risk your party’s future with younger people. You can have a legitimate dispute about how to solve immigration, but when you start focusing on the last names of people the demographics will pass you by.”

So Graham’s approach to bringing around his conservative state has been simple: avoid talking about “climate change,” which many on the right don’t believe. Instead, frame our energy challenge as a need to “clean up carbon pollution,” to “become energy independent” and to “create more good jobs and new industries for South Carolinians.” He proposes “putting a price on carbon,” starting with a very focused carbon tax, as opposed to an economywide cap-and-trade system, so as to spur both consumers and industries to invest in and buy new clean energy products. He includes nuclear energy, and insists on permitting more offshore drilling for oil and gas to give us more domestic sources, as we bridge to a new clean energy economy.

“Cap-and-trade as we know it is dead, but the issue of cleaning up the air and energy independence should not die — and you will never have energy independence without pricing carbon,” Graham argues. “The technology doesn’t make sense until you price carbon. Nuclear power is a bet on cleaner air. Wind and solar is a bet on cleaner air. You make those bets assuming that cleaning the air will become more profitable than leaving the air dirty, and the only way it will be so is if the government puts some sticks on the table — not just carrots. The future economy of America and the jobs of the future are going to be tied to cleaning up the air, and in the process of cleaning up the air this country becomes energy independent and our national security is greatly enhanced.”

Remember, he adds: “We are more dependent on foreign oil today than after 9/11. That is political malpractice, and every member of Congress is responsible.”

This isn’t just for the next generation, says Graham: “As you talk about the future, if you forget the people who live in the present, you will have no future politically. You have to get the people in the present to buy into the future. I tell my voters: ‘If we try to clean up the air and become energy independent, we will create more jobs than anything I can do as a senator.’ General Electric makes all the turbines for the G.E. windmills in Greenville, South Carolina.” He also is pushing to make his state a manufacturing center for nuclear reactor components and biomass from plants and timber.

What would most help him bring around his G.O.P. colleagues? The business lobby. “The Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers need to tell my colleagues it is O.K. to price carbon, if you do it smartly,” he says.

Sure, Graham’s strategy will give many greens heartburn. I don’t agree with every point. But if there is going to be a clean energy bill, greens and Democrats will have to recruit some Republicans. Graham says he’s ready to meet them in the middle. “We’ve got to get started,” he says, “because once we do, every C.E.O. will adopt a carbon strategy, no matter what the law actually requires.”

And for those Republicans who think this is only a loser, Senator Graham says think again: “What is our view of carbon as a party? Are we the party of carbon pollution forever in unlimited amounts? Pricing carbon is the key to energy independence, and the byproduct is that young people look at you differently.” Look at how he is received in colleges today. “Instead of being just one more short, white Republican over 50,” says Graham, “I am now semicool. There is an awareness by young people that I am doing something different.”

Five more G.O.P. senators like him and we could have a real energy bill.

“We can’t be a nation that always tries and fails,” Graham concludes. “We have to eventually get some hard problem right.”

It was a typo and spellcheck  didn't know enough to catch it!

Dutch Agency Admits Mistake in Climate Report

July 5, 2010
Filed at 4:12 p.m. ET

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) -- A leading Dutch environmental agency, taking the blame for one of the glaring errors that undermined the credibility of a seminal U.N. report on climate change, said Monday it has discovered more small mistakes and urged the panel to be more careful.

But the review by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency claimed that none of the errors effected the fundamental conclusion by U.N. panel of scientists: that global warming caused by humans already is happening and is threatening the lives and well-being of millions of people.  Mistakes discovered in the 3,000-page report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year fed into an atmosphere of skepticism over the reliability of climate scientists who have been warning for many years that human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases could have catastrophic consequences, including rising sea levels, drought and the extinction of nearly one-third of the Earth's species.

The errors put scientists on the defensive in the months before a major summit on climate change in Copenhagen in December, which met with only limited success on agreeing how to limit carbon emissions and contain the worst effects of global warming.

The underlying IPCC conclusions remain valid, said Maarten Hajer, the Dutch agency's director. The IPCC report is not a house of cards that collapses with one error, but is more like a puzzle with many pieces that need to fit together. ''So the errors do not affect the whole construction,'' he said at a news conference.

But he said the boiled-down version of the full IPCC report, a synthesis meant as a guideline for policymakers, included conclusions drawn from ''expert judgments'' that were not always clearly sourced or transparent.

With some conclusions, ''we can't say it's plainly wrong. We don't know,'' and can't tell from the supporting text, Hajer said. The IPCC should ''be careful making generalizations.''

The IPCC, in a statement from its Geneva headquarters, welcomed the agency's findings, which it said confirmed the IPCC's conclusion that ''continued climate change will pose serious challenges to human well-being and sustainable development.''

It said it will ''pay close attention'' to the agency's recommendations to tighten up review procedures.

The Dutch agency accepted responsibility for one mistake by the IPCC when it reported in 2005 that 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level, when only 26 percent is. The report should have said 55 percent is prone to flooding, including river flooding.  The mistake happened when a long report was compressed into a short one, and two figures were meshed into one. ''Something was lost, and it wasn't spotted,'' said Hajer.

''The incorrect wording in the IPCC report does not affect the message of the conclusion,'' that the Netherlands is highly susceptible to sea level rise, the agency's report said. ''The lesson to be learned for an assessment agency such as ours is that quality control is needed at the primary level.''

The second previously reported error claimed the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035, which the Dutch agency partly traced to a report on the likely shrinking of glaciers by the year 2350.

The review, which lasted five months, also found several other errors in the IPCC report on regional impacts of climate change -- one of four separate IPCC reports in 2007 -- although it said they were inconsequential.

The original report said global warming will put 75 million to 250 million Africans at risk of severe water shortages in the next 10 years, but a recalculation showed that range should be 90 million to 220 million, the agency said.

Another error it found involved the effect of wind turbulence on anchovy fisheries on Africa's west coast.

The Dutch agency said it examined 32 conclusions in the summary for policy makers on the impact of climate change in eight regions.

''Our findings do not contradict the main conclusions of the IPCC,'' the report said. ''There is ample observational evidence of natural systems being influenced by climate change ... (that) pose substantial risks to most parts of the world.''

It said future IPCC reports should have a more robust review process and should look more closely at where information comes from. It also recommended more investment in monitoring global warming in developing countries.

U.N. Climate Chief Resigns
February 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — Yvo de Boer, the stolid Dutch bureaucrat who led the international climate change negotiations over four tumultuous years, is resigning his post as of July 1, the United Nations said on Thursday.

In a statement announcing his departure, Mr. de Boer expressed disappointment that the December climate change conference of nearly 200 nations in Copenhagen had failed to produce an enforceable agreement to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that climate scientists say are contributing to the warming of the planet.

He also said that governmental negotiations could provide a framework for action on climate, but that the solutions must come from the businesses that produce and consume the fuels that add to global warming.

“Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a low-emissions world are overwhelming,” said Mr. de Boer, whose formal title is executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “This calls for new partnerships with the business sector, and I now have the chance to help make this happen.”

Mr. de Boer, 55, will join the consulting group KPMG as global adviser on climate and sustainability and will also work in academia, his office said.  Full story here.

Connecticut moves to curb greenhouse gas levels; State DEP establishes baseline for emissions
By Judy Benson Day Staff Writer
Article published Dec 25, 2009

While the world may have had trouble reaching an agreement on actions to curb greenhouse gases at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen last week, Connecticut has been taking some first steps.

This month, the state Department of Environmental Protection set a baseline for the amount of human-caused carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions coming from the state. Basically, said Paul Ferrell, assistant director of air planning at the DEP, the number is a starting point the state will use to gauge its progress at reducing emissions.

The DEP was required to set the baseline by a law passed by the legislature in 2008. Once the baseline is set, the law states that gradual reductions in emissions are to be achieved over the next 40 years until the emissions are 80 percent below 2001 levels, he said.

Are the reductions goals set by the law achievable?

"It is pretty heavy lifting," Ferrell said, "but I'm optimistic."

Through Jan. 7, the DEP is receiving public comment on the baseline and the supporting documents, found in its Draft Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Comments can be sent to: A copy of the draft and related information on the DEP's climate-change initiatives can be found on the DEP Web site,

The baseline established by the DEP, Ferrell said, uses a tool developed by the Environmental Protection Agency to calculate the amount of human-caused emissions coming from the state. The calculation found that in 1990, the state was releasing 44.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and that emissions were 4 percent higher than that by 2007. By 2020, according to the law, the state's emissions are to be 10 percent below the 1990 levels, which is 39.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The EPA tool was also used to determine where the greenhouse gases were coming from, so that those sectors could be targeted for emissions reduction programs. The largest portion comes from emissions from cars, buses and trucks, followed by electric power generation plants that burn fossil fuels, then homes, from the fuels used for heating. The commercial and industrial sectors are the fourth- and fifth-largest emitters, respectively. Only one sector of the state, its forests and other open space, is absorbing rather than emitting greenhouse gases, but good data to calculate the amount being taken up by trees, marshes and other natural areas is not available, according to the DEP documents.

"We're going to pay particular attention to transportation" in developing emissions-reduction programs, Ferrell said.

A whole suite of programs, he said, will be created to curb the state's emissions. These would include incentives for cleaner vehicles, for weatherization and energy efficiency programs for homes and for greater use of fuels that produce low or no emissions.

After setting the baseline, the next phase for the DEP will be coming up with the reduction strategies and then receiving public comment on the plans, Ferrell said. That should happen by early next year.

The inventory makes clear, Ferrell said, that "everyone is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions."


The breakdown:

The burning of fossil fuels accounts for 90.6 percent of the state's greenhouse-gas emissions. Industrial processes, waste and agriculture account for the remaining 9.4 percent. Breakdown of CO2 emissions from fossil-fuel combustion in Connecticut:

• 43 percent from vehicles

• 22 percent from electric-power generation

• 21 percent from houses and apartments

• 8 percent from businesses

• 6 percent from industries

Source: Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection

Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Why did Copenhagen fail to deliver a climate deal?
Climate sculpture in Copenhagen (Image: AFP)
The summit failed to deliver a way to halt dangerous climate change

About 45,000 travelled to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen - the vast majority convinced of the need for a new global agreement on climate change.

So why did the summit end without one, just an acknowledgement of a deal struck by five nations, led by the US.

And why did delegates leave the Danish capital without agreement that something significantly stronger should emerge next year?

Our environment correspondent Richard Black looks at eight reasons that might have played a part.


Until the end of this summit, it appeared that all governments wanted to keep the keys to combating climate change within the UN climate convention.

Plenary hall at the Copenhagen summit (Image: AFP)
In the end, a deal was struck behind closed doors, not by the conference

Implicit in the convention, though, is the idea that governments take account of each others' positions and actually negotiate.

That happened at the Kyoto summit. Developed nations arrived arguing for a wide range of desired outcomes; during negotiations, positions converged, and a negotiated deal was done.

In Copenhagen, everyone talked; but no-one really listened.

The end of the meeting saw leaders of the US and the BASIC group of countries (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) hammering out a last-minute deal in a back room as though the nine months of talks leading up to this summit, and the Bali Action Plan to which they had all committed two years previously, did not exist.


Most computers will open this document automatically

Over the last few years, statements on climate change have been made in other bodies such as the G8, Major Economies Forum (MEF) and Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (APEC), which do not have formal negotiations, and where outcomes are not legally binding.

It appears now that this is the arrangement preferred by the big countries (meaning the US and the BASIC group). Language in the "Copenhagen Accord" could have been taken from - indeed, some passages were reportedly taken from, via the mechanism of copying and pasting - G8 and MEF declarations.

The logical conclusion is that this is the arrangement that the big players now prefer - an informal setting, where each country says what it is prepared to do - where nothing is negotiated and nothing is legally binding.


Just about every other country involved in the UN talks has a single chain of command; when the president or prime minister speaks, he or she is able to make commitments for the entire government.

Not so the US. The president is not able to pledge anything that Congress will not support, and his inability to step up the US offer in Copenhagen was probably the single biggest impediment to other parties improving theirs.

Viewed internationally, the US effectively has two governments, each with power of veto over the other.

Doubtless the founding fathers had their reasons. But it makes the US a nation apart in these processes, often unable to state what its position is or to move that position - a nightmare for other countries' negotiators.


Although the Bali Action Plan was drawn up two years ago, it is only one year since Barack Obama entered the White House and initiated attempts to curb US carbon emissions.

Barack Obama (Image: AFP)
Copenhagen probably came a year too early in Barack Obama's presidency

He is also attempting major healthcare reforms; and both measures are proving highly difficult.

If the Copenhagen summit had come a year later, perhaps Mr Obama would have been able to speak from firmer ground, and perhaps offer some indication of further action down the line - indications that might have induced other countries to step up their own offers.

As it is, he was in a position to offer nothing - and other countries responded in kind.


In many ways, Denmark was an excellent summit host. Copenhagen was a friendly and capable city, transport links worked, Bella Center food outlets remained open through the long negotiating nights.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen (left) chats with fellow ormer COP15 President Connie Hedegaard
Developing nations accused the hosts of holding talks behind closed doors

But the government of Lars Lokke Rasmussen got things badly, badly wrong.

Even before the summit began, his office put forward a draft political declaration to a select group of "important countries" - thereby annoying every country not on the list, including most of the ones that feel seriously threatened by climate impacts.

The chief Danish negotiator Thomas Becker was sacked just weeks before the summit amid tales of a huge rift between Mr Rasmussen's office and the climate department of minister Connie Hedegaard. This destroyed the atmosphere of trust that developing country negotiators had established with Mr Becker.

Procedurally, the summit was a farce, with the Danes trying to hurry things along so that a conclusion could be reached, bringing protest after protest from some of the developing countries that had presumed everything on the table would be properly negotiated. Suspensions of sessions became routine.

Despite the roasting they had received over the first "Danish text", repeatedly the hosts said they were preparing new documents - which should have been the job of the independent chairs of the various negotiating strands.

China's chief negotiator was barred by security for the first three days of the meeting - a serious issue that should have been sorted out after day one. This was said to have left the Chinese delegation in high dudgeon.

When Mr Rasmussen took over for the high-level talks, it became quickly evident that he understood neither the climate convention itself nor the politics of the issue. Experienced observers said they had rarely seen a UN summit more ineptly chaired.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the prime minister's office envisaged the summit as an opportunity to cover Denmark and Mr Rasmussen in glory - a "made in Denmark" pact that would solve climate change.

Most of us, I suspect, will remember the city and people of Copenhagen with some affection. But it is likely that history will judge that the government's political handling of the summit covered the prime minister in something markedly less fragrant than glory.


Although "climate sceptical" issues made hardly a stir in the plenary sessions, any delegate wavering as to the scientific credibility of the "climate threat" would hardly have been convinced by the freezing weather and - on the last few days - the snow that blanketed routes from city centre to Bella Center.

Reporting that the "noughties" had been the warmest decade since instrumental records began, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) noted "except in parts of North America".

If the US public had experienced the searing heat and prolonged droughts and seriously perturbed rainfall patterns seen in other corners of the globe, would they have pressed their senators harder on climate action over the past few years?


The way this deal was concocted and announced was perhaps the logical conclusion of a news culture wherein it is more important to beam a speaking president live into peoples' homes from the other side of the world than it is to evaluate what has happened and give a balanced account.

Copenhagen summit's media centre (Image: AFP)
Thousands of journalists covered every twist and turn at the summit

The Obama White House mounted a surgical strike of astounding effectiveness (and astounding cynicism) that saw the president announcing a deal live on TV before anyone - even most of the governments involved in the talks - knew a deal had been done.

The news went first to the White House lobby journalists travelling with the president. With due respect, they are not as well equipped to ask critical questions as the environment specialists who had spent the previous two weeks at the Bella Center.

After the event, of course, journalists pored over the details. But the agenda had already been set; by the time those articles emerged, anyone who was not particularly interested in the issue would have come to believe that a deal on climate change had been done, with the US providing leadership to the global community.

The 24-hour live news culture did not make the Copenhagen Accord. But its existence offered the White House a way to keep the accord's chief architect away from all meaningful scrutiny while telling the world of his triumph.


For about two hours on Friday night, the EU held the fate of the Obama-BASIC "accord" in its hands, as leaders who had been sideswiped by the afternoon's diplomatic coup d'etat struggled to make sense of what had happened and decide the appropriate response.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso (Image: AP)
The EU called the deal disappointing, so why did the 27-nation bloc accept it?

If the EU had declined to endorse the deal at that point, a substantial number of developing countries would have followed suit, and the accord would now be simply an informal agreement between a handful of countries - symbolising the failure of the summit to agree anything close to the EU's minimum requirements, and putting some beef behind Europe's insistence that something significant must be achieved next time around.

So why did the EU endorse such an emasculated document, given that several leaders beforehand had declared that no deal would be better than a weak deal?

The answer probably lies in a mixture - in proportions that can only be guessed at - of three factors:

• Politics as usual - ie never go against the US, particularly the Obama US, and always emerge with something to claim as a success

• EU expansion, which has increased the proportion of governments in the bloc that are unconvinced of the arguments for constraining emissions

• The fact that important EU nations, in particular France and the UK, had invested significant political capital in preparing the ground for a deal - tying up a pact on finance with Ethiopia's President Meles Zenawi, and mounting a major diplomatic push on Thursday when it appeared things might unravel.

Having prepared the bed for US and Chinese leaders and having hoped to share it with them as equal partners, acquiescing to an outcome that it did not want announced in a manner that gave it no respect arguably leaves the EU cast in a role rather less dignified that it might have imagined.


An incredible amount of messaging and consultation went on behind the scenes in the run-up to this meeting, as vast numbers of campaign groups from all over the planet strived to co-ordinate their "messaging" in order to maximise the chances of achieving their desired outcome.

The messaging had been - in its broadest terms - to praise China, India, Brazil and the other major developing countries that pledged to constrain the growth in their emissions; to go easy on Barack Obama; and to lambast the countries (Canada, Russia, the EU) that campaigners felt could and should do more.

Now, post-mortems are being held, and all those positions are up for review. US groups are still giving Mr Obama more brickbats than bouquets, for fear of wrecking Congressional legislation - but a change of stance is possible.

Having seen the deal emerge that the real leaders of China, India and the other large developing countries evidently wanted, how will those countries now be treated?

How do you campaign in China - or in Saudi Arabia, another influential country that emerged with a favourable outcome?

The situation is especially demanding for those organisations that have traditionally supported the developing world on a range of issues against what they see as the west's damaging dominance.

After Copenhagen, there is no "developing world" - there are several. Responding to this new world order is a challenge for campaign groups, as it will be for politicians in the old centres of world power.

Can Obama sell his 'hard stuff' to the Senate?
 Mark Mardell, I-BBC | 17:29 UK time, Saturday, 19 December 2009

White House: Chilly reception

The weather saved President Barack Obama from witnessing his climate change plan being pulled apart before his eyes. He told the assembled travelling White House press that he, and they, had to make a quick exit because of a weather warning in Washington. The warning of a blizzard was real enough: the advice here is don't leave home, and as I write I'm watching snow gusting down on the usually busy road outside. It's been empty all morning. On TV an excited reporter has just said "this is not just a storm, but a natural disaster unfolding before our eyes". Maybe not, but the president is now home and the White House says he has no engagements for the weekend. I don't blame him.

But it was the speed of the spin that avoided the appearance of a collapse of the talks. First a White House statement of a deal, and then the presidential news conference hailing the agreement between some of the world's most important countries as a modest step forward. His tone certainly wasn't unrealistically victorious, he was straightforward, thoughtful and rather downbeat.

View from Mardell's study

He said he understood the problems of developing countries but seized on the fact that for the first time India had made a commitment to cut greenhouse gases. His whole message was that the perfect is the enemy of the good.
He said this year had taught him when it came to "hard stuff" it was better to make some progress, and then try to make it better. I like the headline from the Boston Globe: "11th hour Copenhagen pact better than none, but barely." It is how Obama probably feels himself.

Of course his critics, like the New York Post, will be quick to condemn the deal as a "sham" and a "farce", and keen to portray the president as being "snubbed" by other world leaders. That's just rather crude party politics. There are a minority here who see any deal-making with foreigners as humiliatingly weedy.

But committing America to the cuts the president has promised will be a struggle for him. The fact that he has pushed through an agreement by emerging nations to cut greenhouse gases, and that these will be verified, helps him: just a little bit. It is better than a total breakdown. He himself said that without verification that other countries were cutting their emissions it would be "a hollow victory". But the deal is not legally binding and the verification process sounds pretty hazy.

Copenhagen protest

The Fox News headline "Copenhagen Chaos Could Imperil Senate Climate Bill" may be somewhat over the top, but it is true that a deal that isn't legally binding and one where there isn't independent international verification of any reduction in emissions will be red meat to those who want to oppose the cap and trade bill. And it may genuinely increase the worries of those who think unilateral reductions in the US will give the emerging world a competitive advantage.

One reader has chided me by e-mail for giving the impression that the American people, rather than their senators, need persuading that climate change is real and serious. He points me towards this polling, which indicates 73% of Americans want emissions cut even if there is not a deal. It is an important point, although other opinion polls, are less clear. But the president does have big problems with the Senate. While he has acted forcefully in Copenhagen and snatched at least some chestnuts from the fire the failure to achieve an overall, binding deal will make his task more difficult.

FROM YAHOO:  COPENHAGEN:  Todd Stern, U.S. special envoy for climate change, gestures during a press briefing at the U.N. Climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, Friday, Dec. 11, 2009. China's Vice Foreign Minister He Yafei on Friday said the chief U.S. climate negotiator either lacks common sense or is 'extremely irresponsible' for saying that no U.S. climate financing should be going to China.  Protests much more dignified against the United States now that W isn't there to attack and be rude to...

Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Saturday, 19 December 2009
Delegates at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen. Photo: 19 December 2009
Mega-conferences like Copenhagen have proved to be very difficult to handle
Climate summit: Where's the beef?
By Paul Reynolds
World affairs correspondent, BBC News website

He came. He did a quick deal. He left.

That was how US President Barack Obama intervened in the global warming conference in Copenhagen and whether he saved it from total deadlock or condemned it to issuing a powerless piece of paper depends on your point of view.

The result was a political commitment not a treaty.

And it was worked out by the United States with China and a handful of others. The rest of the conference simply "took note of it", most with resignation, many with anger,

The words sound fine enough. "We emphasise our strong political will to urgently combat climate change."

And: "We shall, recognising the scientific view that the increase in global temperature should be below 2C, on the basis of equity and in the context of sustainable development, enhance our long-term co-operative action to combat climate change."

But where's the beef? That apparently has to be added to this sandwich later.


The deal - done between President Obama and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, along with India, Brazil and South Africa - tells you a lot about how diplomacy will happen in future.


  • No reference to legally binding agreement
  • Recognises the need to limit global temperatures rising no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels
  • Developed countries to "set a goal of mobilising jointly $100bn a year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries"
  • On transparency: Emerging nations monitor own efforts and report to UN every two years. Some international checks
  • No detailed framework on carbon markets - "various approaches" will be pursued
Updated: 13:47 GMT, 19 December

The US and China had to work with each other on this. They will have to deal with each other on other issues. It is at least encouraging that they are talking.

New players are coming onto the stage. Russia was absent. The EU was nowhere. It has already made its commitments and did not need to be brought on board.

The rest had to go along.

A difficult period lies ahead as governments have to sign up to making cuts and everyone will be watching to see who does something and who does nothing.

Perhaps there was just too much to bite off. It is often the case in international diplomacy that tackling problems salami-style is more effective than trying to digest them all at once.

Unmanageable forum?

It is also true that mega-conferences are very difficult to handle. Even European summits, still small by Copenhagen standards, almost always come down to what happened there - a small number of countries take control and impose their will.


It is a toss-up however as to why Copenhagen did not get further - was it the format or the decisions? Were too many governments trying to negotiate at too late a stage or was the reality that they simply did not want to compromise or commit, with some of them not even believing that the world needs saving?

It's probably a mixture of the two.

And perhaps more time would have helped. But time is not available to statesmen and women these days. They have to be on the move all the time.

President Obama even had to rush back to Washington to avoid the worst of a snow storm.

The pace used to be more leisurely.

The Congress of Vienna, which divided Europe up after the Napoleonic wars, lasted from November 1814 to June 1815. All the deals were done informally. And there was no 24-hour television to ask why progress had not been made.

The Congress of Berlin, which tried to sort out the Balkans, lasted a month in the summer of 1878.

The Versailles Treaty followed negotiations that lasted from January to June 1919.

Better formula?

It is proper to compare Copenhagen with these meetings if only because the agenda was even more momentous in the eyes of many - the saving not of continents but of the planet.

In the absence of such a timeframe, there were pre-negotiations, such as they were, and these were left to lower level ministers and delegations.

But it is always the same - nobody wants to back down until the very last minute and the decisions had to come from the very top.

A similar process has been going on in world trade talks, in the so-called Doha Round, which seeks to lower tariffs and other barriers to trade. Admittedly time has not been a problem there. The talks started in 2001 and are still staggering on.

Maybe a better formula might be to have a series of meetings at the top level - so governments could make progress bit-by-bit.

Climate Deal Announced, but Falls Short of Expectations

December 19, 2009

COPENHAGEN — Leaders here concluded a climate change deal on Friday that the Obama administration called “meaningful” but that falls short of even the modest expectations for the summit meeting here.

The agreement addresses many of the issues that leaders came here to settle, but the answers are bound to leave many of the participants unhappy.

Even an Obama administration official conceded, “It is not sufficient to combat the threat of climate change, but it’s an important first step.”

“No country is entirely satisfied with each element,” the administration’s statement said, “but this is a meaningful and historic step forward and a foundation from which to make further progress.”

The statement added, “We thank the emerging economies for their voluntary actions and especially appreciate the work and leadership of the Europeans in this effort.”

But many of those emerging economies are likely to express displeasure. Europeans said the deal does not require enough of the United States, China and other major emitters and could put European industries at a competitive disadvantage because the European Union is already subject to a carbon emissions constraint program.

The accord drops the expected goal of concluding a binding international treaty by the end of 2010, which leaves the implementation of its provisions uncertain. It is likely to undergo many months, perhaps years, of additional negotiation before it emerges in any internationally enforceable form.

“We entered this negotiation at a time when there were significant differences between countries,” the American official said.

“Developed and developing countries have now agreed to listing their national actions and commitments, a finance mechanism, to set a mitigation target of two degrees Celsius and to provide information on the implementation of their actions through national communications, with provisions for international consultations and analysis under clearly defined guidelines,” the official said.

The deal came after a dramatic moment in which Mr. Obama burst into a meeting of the Chinese, Indian and Brazilian leaders, according to senior administration officials. Chinese protocol officers protested, and Mr. Obama said he did not want them negotiating in secret.

The intrusion led to new talks that cemented key terms of the deal, American officials said.

Sergio Serra, Brazil’s senior climate negotiator here, confirmed that Mr. Obama had “joined” a meeting of Brazilian, Indian, Chinese and other officials, although he did not say that Mr. Obama walked in uninvited.

“After several discussions had taken place they were joined by President Barack Obama,” Mr. Serra said. “Several important decisions were taken — not a few due to Brazilian mediation — that we hope will bring a result, if not what we expected, that may be a way of salvaging something and pave the way to another meeting or series of meetings to get the full result of this proceeding.”

The agreement is believed to be based on a document that was being edited by high-ranking officials from some two dozen countries throughout the day.

In that draft, developed nations committed to a long-term target of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. No specific midterm target was set. Developing countries, meanwhile, would pursue mitigation efforts of their own, and agreed in general terms to some sort of reporting on those efforts — something the industrialized world had been seeking.

The draft dropped earlier language that said a binding accord should be reached “as soon as possible,” and no later than at the next meeting of the parties, in Mexico City in November 2010. Instead, the draft set no specific deadline, saying only that the agreement should be reviewed and put in place by 2015.

The draft also included a few hard figures about joint emissions cuts of 50 percent by 2050. It included a dozen or so enumerated points asserting general commitment to the idea that “climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time” and asserted that “deep cuts” in global emissions are required.

It also sought to lay out some framework for verification of emissions commitments by developing countries and to establish a “high-level panel” to assess financial contributions by rich nations to help poor countries adapt to climate change and limit their emissions.

In the draft, many of the specifics remained to be negotiated, however.

In a press conference following the announcement, Mr. Obama thanked other world leaders for their help in reaching the accord — which he nonetheless characterized as being only a start.

“This progress did not come easily,” he said, “and we know that this progress alone is not enough.”

Mr. Obama noted that the United States would not be legally bound by anything agreed to in Copenhagen on Friday, and that, due to weather in Washington, he was leaving ahead of a full vote on the agreement.

But, he added, “I’m confident we’re moving in the direction of final accord.”

Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and lead author of the Senate’s climate change bill, said the accord will drive Congress to pass climate change legislation early next year.

“This can be a catalyzing moment,” he said. “President Obama’s hands-on engagement broke through the bickering and sets the stage for a final deal and for Senate passage this spring of major legislation at home.”

Even those environmental groups that have pushed hardest for a deal had to acknowledge that this one is lacking in serious ways.

“The world’s nations have come together and concluded a historic — if incomplete — agreement to begin tackling global warming,” said Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Tonight’s announcement is but a first step and much work remains to be done in the days and months ahead in order to seal a final international climate deal that is fair, binding, and ambitious. It is imperative that negotiations resume as soon as possible.”

The announcement came on a day filled with high brinksmanship and seesawing expectations. On Friday morning, President Obama, speaking to world leaders gathered here at the frenzied end of the two weeks of climate talks, urged them to come to an agreement — no matter how imperfect — to address global warming and monitor whether countries are in compliance with promised emissions cuts.

His remarks appeared to be a pointed reference to China’s resistance on the issue of monitoring, which has proved a stubborn obstacle at the talks and a source of tension between China and the United States, the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases.

After delivering the speech to a plenary session of 119 world leaders, Mr. Obama met privately with China’s prime minister, Wen Jiabao, in an hourlong session that a White House official described as “constructive.”

But Mr. Wen did not attend two smaller, impromptu meetings that Mr. Obama and United States officials conducted with the leaders of other world powers, an apparent snub that infuriated administration officials and their European counterparts and added more uncertainty to the proceedings.

Earlier in the day, in his address to the plenary session shortly after noon, Mr. Obama, clearly frustrated by the absence of an agreement, was both emphatic and at times impatient. “The time for talk is over,” he said.

He arrived here prepared to lend his political muscle to secure an agreement on climate change at negotiations that have been plagued by distrust over a range of issues, including how nations would hold each other accountable.

Within an hour of Air Force One’s touchdown in Copenhagen on Friday morning, Mr. Obama went into an unscheduled meeting with a high-level group of leaders representing some 20 countries and organizations. Mr. Wen did not attend that meeting, instead sending the vice foreign minister, He Yafei.

Mr. Wen met privately with Mr. Obama for 55 minutes shortly after the American president’s eight-minute speech to the plenary session. Afterwards, a White House official said the two leaders “took a step forward and made progress.”

Negotiators here had worked through the night, charged with delivering a draft of the political agreement by 8 a.m. ahead of the arrival of dozens of heads of state and high-level ministers for the final stretch of deliberations.

An American negotiator, weary from a night of discussions, expressed confidence early Friday that the talks would produce some form of an agreed declaration, even if it lacked specifics on some of the toughest issues.

Mr. Obama injected himself into a multilayered negotiation that has been far more chaotic and contentious than anticipated — frozen by longstanding divisions between rich and poor nations and a legacy of mistrust of the United States, which has long refused to accept any binding limits on its greenhouse gas emissions.

The administration provided the talks with a palpable boost on Thursday when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared that the United States would contribute its share to $100 billion a year in long-term financing to help poor nations adapt to climate change.

Mrs. Clinton’s offer came with two significant conditions. First, the 192 nations involved in the talks here must reach a comprehensive political agreement that takes effect immediately. Second, and more critically, all nations must agree to some form of verification — she repeatedly used the term “transparency” — to ensure they are meeting their environmental promises.

China has brought the talks to a virtual standstill all week over this issue, which its leaders claim to be an affront to national sovereignty.

But the Chinese resistance on the issue is matched in large measure by Mr. Obama’s own constraints. The Senate has not yet acted on a climate bill that the president needs to make good on his promises of emissions reductions and on the financial support that he has now promised the rest of the world.

Developing countries boycott UN climate talks
By MICHAEL CASEY, Associated Press Writer
Dec. 14, 2009

COPENHAGEN – China, India and other developing nations boycotted U.N. climate talks Monday, bringing negotiations to a halt with their demand that rich countries discuss much deeper cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

Representatives from 135 developing countries said they refused to participate in any formal working groups at the 192-nation summit until the issue was resolved. The developing countries want to extend the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which imposed penalties on rich nations if they did not comply with its strict emissions limits.

The African-led move was a setback for the Copenhagen talks, which were already faltering over long-running disputes between rich and poor nations over emissions cuts and financing for developing countries to deal with climate change.

However, the move was largely seen as a ploy to shift the agenda to the responsibilities of the industrial countries and make emissions reductions the first item for discussion when world leaders begin arriving Tuesday.

"I don't think the talks are falling apart, but we're losing time," said Kim Carstensen, of the World Wildlife Fund. The developing countries "are making a point."

The dispute came as the conference entered its second week, and only days before more than 100 world leaders, including President Barack Obama, were scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen.

"Nothing is happening at this moment," Zia Hoque Mukta, a delegate from Bangladesh, told The Associated Press. He said developing countries have demanded that conference president Connie Hedegaard of Denmark bring the industrial nations' emissions targets to the top of the agenda before talks can resume.

Poor countries, supported by China, say Hedegaard had raised suspicion that the conference was likely to kill the Kyoto Protocol. The United States withdrew from Kyoto over concerns that it would harm the U.S. economy and that China, India and other major greenhouse gas emitters were not required to take action.

"We are seeing the death of the Kyoto Protocol," said Djemouai Kamel of Algeria, the head of the 50-nation Africa group.

It was the second time the Africans have disrupted the climate talks. At the last round of negotiations in November, the African bloc forced a one-day suspension until wealthy countries agreed to spell out what steps they will take to reduce emissions.

An African delegate said developing countries decided to block the negotiations at a meeting hours before the conference was to resume. He was speaking on condition of anonymity because the meeting was held behind closed doors. He said applause broke out every time China, India or another country supported the proposal to stall the talks.

U.N. climate chief Yvo De Boer said Hedegaard was holding informal consultations with delegates "to get things going."

In Washington, the White House on Monday announced a new program drawing funds from international partners to spend $350 million over five years to give developing nations clean energy technology to curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce global warming.  The program will distribute solar power alternatives for homes, including sun-powered lanterns, supply cleaner equipment and appliances and work to develop renewable energy systems in the world's poorer nations.

The funding plan grew out of the Major Economies Forum (MEF) established among the world's top economies earlier this year.

The U.S. share of the program will amount to $85 million, with the rest coming from Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland, the White House said in a statement.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Energy Secretary Steven Chu is to coordinate with partners in the group to ensure immediate action on the program.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said he would go to Copenhagen on Tuesday — two days earlier than planned — to try to inject momentum into the talks.

Former Vice President Al Gore told the conference that new data suggests a 75 percent chance the entire Arctic polar ice cap may disappear in the summertime as soon as five to seven years from now. Gore, who won a Nobel Peace prize for his work on climate change, joined the foreign ministers of Norway and Denmark in presenting two new reports on melting Arctic ice.


Associated Press writer Arthur Max contributed to this report.

Pittsburgh G20 a prelude to these protests

968 detained at climate rally urging bold pact
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
December 12, 2009, pm

COPENHAGEN – Tens of thousands of protesters have marched through the chilly Danish capital and nearly 1,000 were detained in a mass rally to demand an ambitious global climate pact, just as talks hit a snag over rich nations' demands on China and other emerging economies.

The mostly peaceful demonstrations in Copenhagen on Saturday provided the centerpiece of a day of global climate activism stretching from Europe to Asia. Police assigned extra officers to watch protesters marching toward the suburban conference center to demand that leaders act now to fight climate change.

Police estimated their numbers at 40,000, while organizers said as many as 100,000 had joined the march from downtown Copenhagen. It ended with protesters holding aloft candles and torches as they swarmed by night outside the Bella Center where the 192-nation U.N. climate conference is being held.

There have been a couple of minor protests over the past week, but Saturday's was by far the largest.

Police said they rounded up 968 people in a preventive action against a group of youth activists at the tail end of the demonstration. Officers in riot gear moved in when some of the activists, masking their faces, threw cobblestones through the windows of the former stock exchange and Foreign Ministry buildings...

Hundreds detained at mass climate rally
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writers
December 12, 2009, am

COPENHAGEN – Tens of thousands of protesters marched through the chilly Danish capital and 600 were detained Saturday, in a mass rally to demand an ambitious global climate pact just as talks hit a snag over rich nations' demands on China and other emerging economies.

The mostly peaceful demonstrations in Copenhagen provided the centerpiece of a day of global climate activism stretching from Europe to Asia. Police assigned extra officers to watch protesters marching toward the suburban conference center to demand that leaders act now to fight climate change.  Police estimated their numbers at 40,000, while organizers said as many as 100,000 had joined the march from downtown Copenhagen. It ended with protesters holding aloft candles and torches as they swarmed by night outside the Bella Center where the 192-nation U.N. climate conference is being held.

Police said they rounded up between 600 and 700 people in a preventive action against a group of youth activists at the tail end of the demonstration. Officers in riot gear moved in when some of the activists, masking their faces, threw cobblestones through the windows of the former stock exchange and Foreign Ministry buildings.

A police officer received minor injuries when he was hit by a rock thrown from the group and one protester was injured by fireworks, police spokesman Flemming Steen Munch said.  Earlier, police said they had detained 19 people, mainly for breaking Denmark's strict laws against carrying pocket knives or wearing masks during demonstrations.

Inside the Bella Center, the European Union, Japan and Australia joined the U.S. in criticizing a draft global warming pact that says major developing nations must rein in greenhouse gases, but only if they have outside financing. Rich nations want to require developing nations to limit emissions, with or without financial help.  Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, representing the 27-nation EU, told The Associated Press that "there has been a growing understanding that there must be commitments to actions by emerging economies as well."

He said those commitments "must be binding, in the sense that states are standing behind their commitments."

Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said his country — the world's No. 5 greenhouse gas polluter — will not offer more than its current pledge to slow its growth rate of emissions. It has offered to cut greenhouse gases measured against production by 20 to 25 percent by 2020.

"National interest trumps everything else," Ramesh told the AP. "Whatever I have to do, I've said in my Parliament. We'll engage them (the U.S. and China). I'm not here to make new offers."

China has made voluntary commitments to rein in its carbon emissions but doesn't want to be bound by international law to do so. In China's view, the U.S. and other rich countries have a heavy historical responsibility to cut emissions and any climate deal in Copenhagen should take into account a country's level of development.   Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists told the AP that rich nations are trying to re-negotiate the deal they reached two years ago on the island of Bali, calling on developing nations to limit emissions with financial help.

"It's going to blow up in their faces," he said. "The rich countries are trying to move the goal posts. And developing countries are not going to agree to that, no matter how loudly the rich countries demand it."

The tightly focused negotiating text was meant to lay out the crunch themes for environment ministers to wrestle with as they prepare for a summit of some 110 heads of state and government at the end of next week.  U.S. delegate Jonathan Pershing said the draft failed to address the contentious issue of carbon emissions by emerging economies.

"The current draft didn't work in terms of where it is headed," Pershing said in the plenary, supported by the European Union, Japan and Norway.

But the EU also directed criticism at the U.S., insisting it could make greater commitments to push the talks forward without stretching the legislation pending in Congress. Both the U.S. and China should be legally bound to keep whatever promises they make, Carlgren said.

Thousands also marched in a "Walk Against Warming" in major cities across Australia and about 200 Filipino activists staged a festive rally in Manila to mark the Global Day of Action on climate change. Dozens of Indonesian environmental activists rallied in front of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.

Environmentalists staged stunts and protests in 100 piazzas across Italy, from Venice's St. Mark's Square to a historical piazza in downtown Rome. They carried banners that read "stop the planet's fever" and asked passers-by to sign a petition calling on world leaders to reach a deal to reduce emissions.  In Copenhagen, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace laureate, and Greenpeace leader Kumi Naidoo were among those ratcheting up the pressure for a fair, ambitious and binding treaty.

Naidoo exhorted politicians to act bravely by crafting a fair, ambitious and binding treaty, so they can later "look their children and grandchildren in the eyes" and tell them they did the right thing. "Failure to do so will be the worst political crime that they would have committed," he said.

At a candlelight vigil on the conference grounds, Tutu compared the mass demonstrations outside to other popular movements that made a mark in history.

"We want to remind you that they marched in Berlin and the wall fell," Tutu said. "They marched in Cape Town and apartheid fell. They marched in Copenhagen and we are going to get a real deal."

Demonstrators chanted and carried banners reading "Demand Climate Justice," "The World Wants A Real Deal" and "There Is No Planet B," navigating for miles along city streets and over bridges past officers in riot gear, police dogs and the flashing lights of dozens of police vans.  Inside the Bella Center, delegates gathered around flat-screen TVs showing both the larger peaceful rally and the police crackdown on the young activists. Riot police tied them up with plastic cuffs and made them sit down on a closed-off street before busing them to a detention center set up for the climate conference.

Britain's Ed Miliband, the climate change secretary, said dealmakers have a long ways to go. "There are difficult issues to overcome," he said, "around emissions, around finance, and around transparency and they are all issues we need to tackle in the coming days."

But conference president Connie Hedegaard sought to reassure people that world leaders have come to seriously confront climate change.

"It has taken years to build up the pressure ... that we're also seeing unfolding today in many capitals around the world," Hedegaard said. "And I believe that that has contributed to making the political price for not delivering in Copenhagen so high."

'Cap and Trade Is Dead' - not so fast???
The recently disclosed emails and documents from University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit compromise the integrity of the United Nations' global warming reports.

NOVEMBER 26, 2009, 11:41 P.M. ET

So declares Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, taking a few minutes away from a Thanksgiving retreat with his family. "Ninety-five percent of the nails were in the coffin prior to this week. Now they are all in."

If any politician might be qualified to offer last rites, it would be Mr. Inhofe. The top Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee has spent the past decade in the thick of Washington's climate fight. He's seen the back of three cap-and-trade bills, rode herd on an overweening Environmental Protection Agency, and steadfastly insisted that global researchers were "cooking" the science behind man-made global warming.

This week he's looking prescient. The more than 3,000 emails and documents from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) that have found their way to the Internet have blown the lid off the "science" of manmade global warming. CRU is a nerve center for many of those researchers who have authored the United Nations' global warming reports and fueled the political movement to regulate carbon.

Their correspondence show a claque of scientists massaging data to make it fit their theories, squelching scientists who disagreed, punishing academic journals that didn't toe the apocalyptic line, and hiding their work from public view. "It's no use pretending that this isn't a major blow," glumly wrote George Monbiot, a U.K. writer who has been among the fiercest warming alarmists. The documents "could scarcely be more damaging." And that's from a believer.

This scandal has real implications. Mr. Inhofe notes that international and U.S. efforts to regulate carbon were already on the ropes. The growing fear of Democrats and environmentalists is that the CRU uproar will prove a tipping point, and mark a permanent end to those ambitions.

Internationally, world leaders finally acknowledged that the recession has sapped them of their political power to impose devastating new carbon-restrictions. China and India are clear they won't join the West in an economic suicide pact. Next month's summit in Copenhagen is a bust. Instead of producing legally binding agreements, it will be dogged by queries about the legitimacy of the scientists who wrote the reports that form its basis.

The next opportunity to get international agreement is in Mexico City, 2010—a U.S. election year. Democrats were already publicly acknowledging there will be no domestic climate legislation in 2009 and privately acknowledging their great unease at passing a huge energy tax on Americans headed for a midterm vote.

Add to that the CRU scandal, which pivots the focus to potential fraud. Republicans are launching investigations, and the pressure is building on Democrats to hold hearings, since climate scientists were funded with U.S. taxpayer dollars. Mr. Inhofe's office this week sent letters to federal agencies and outside scientists warning them not to delete their own CRU-related emails and documents, which may also be subject to Freedom of Information requests.

Polls show a public already losing belief in the theory of man-made global warming, and skeptics are now on the offense. The Competitive Enterprise Institute's Myron Ebell argues this scandal gives added cover to Blue Dogs and other Democrats who were already reluctant to buck the public's will and vote for climate legislation. And with Republicans set to pick up seats, Mr. Ebell adds, "By 2011 there will hopefully be even fewer members who support this. We may be close to having it permanently stymied." Continued U.S. failure to act makes an international agreement to replace Kyoto (which expires in 2012) a harder sell.

There's still the EPA, which is preparing an "endangerment finding" that would allow it to regulate carbon on the grounds it is a danger to public health. It is here the emails might have the most direct effect. The agency has said repeatedly that it based its finding on the U.N. science—which is now at issue. The scandal puts new pressure on the EPA to accede to growing demands to make public the scientific basis of its actions.

Mr. Inhofe goes so far as to suggest that the agency might not now issue the finding. "The president knows how punitive this will be; he's never wanted to do it through [the EPA] because that's all on him." The EPA was already out on a legal limb with its finding, and Mr. Inhofe argues that if it does go ahead, the CRU disclosure guarantees court limbo. "The way the far left used to stop us is to file lawsuits and stall and stall. We'll do the same thing."

Still, if this Democratic Washington has demonstrated anything, it's that ideology often trumps common sense. Egged on by the left, dug in to their position, Democrats might plow ahead. They'd be better off acknowledging that the only "consensus" right now is that the world needs to start over on climate "science."

The Copenhagen Climate Con

Last Updated: 3:25 AM, November 27, 2009
Posted: 12:33 AM, November 27, 2009

The White House announced Wednesday that President Obama will travel next month to Copenhagen to participate in the United Nations' Climate-Change Conference.

Here's hoping he does better than he did the last time he stopped by that city.

Or, more to the point, here's hoping he doesn't allow America's pockets to be picked totally clean by the shamsters, scam artists and assorted "global-warming" opportunists who also will be in town for the occasion.

For, make no mistake: The whole point of the exercise is to transfer a trillion bucks from the economies of the world's developed nations to Third World kleptocrats -- with God-only-knows how much cash sticking to the fingers of well-connected UN bureaucrats.

(Remember Oil For Food? Chump change compared to what the world body could be up to this time.)

This will be Obama's second highly publicized visit to the land of Hans Christian Andersen in two months.

In October, he led a delegation that included his wife Michelle, Oprah Winfrey, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and other Second City VIPs on a quest to obtain the 2016 Summer Games.

The foray turned into a major embarrassment: Chicago, one of four finalists, was eliminated on the first ballot. (If the process had been an Olympic event, Chicago wouldn't even have copped the bronze medal.)

This time Obama will appear before the UN's climate-control confab.

He reportedly intends to offer a goal of cutting US greenhouse emissions by 17 percent of 2005 levels by 2020.

The White House won't declare exactly what sort of an impact that goal will have on the US economy. Or, more likely, it just doesn't know how much wreckage it will cause.

Rest assured, though: It will be a lot.

And, of course, it's not even clear to what purpose the damage is being done.

As is becoming increasingly clear from those hacked e-mails from the British University of East Anglia's Climactic Research Unit, a lot of the "science" underlying the Copenhagen conference needs to be reconsidered.

The president should be rethinking his policies, as well.

On the other hand...
EDITORIAL: The global-cooling cover-up
Friday, November 27, 2009

The climate-gate revelations have exposed an unprecedented coordinated attempt by academics to distort research for political ends. Anyone interested in accurate science should be appalled at the manipulation of data "to hide the decline [in temperature]" and deletion of e-mail exchanges and data so as not to reveal information that would support global-warming skeptics. These hacks are not just guilty of bad science. In the United Kingdom, deleting e-mail messages to prevent their disclosure from a Freedom of Information Act request is a crime.

The story has gotten worse since the global-cooling cover-up was exposed through a treasure trove of leaked e-mails a week ago. The Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of the University of East Anglia has been incredibly influential in the global-warming debate. The CRU claims the world's largest temperature data set, and its research and mathematical models form the basis of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 2007 report.

Professor Phil Jones, head of the CRU and contributing author to the United Nation's IPCC report chapter titled "Detection of Climate Change and Attribution of Causes," says he "accidentally" deleted some raw temperature data used to construct the aggregate temperature data CRU distributed. If you believe that, you're probably watching too many Al Gore videos.

Mr. Jones is the same professor who warned that global-warming skeptics "have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone."

Other revelations hit at the very core of the global-warming debate. The leaked e-mails indicate that the people at the CRU can't even figure out how their aggregate data was put together. CRU activists claimed that they took individual temperature readings at individual stations and averaged the information out to produce temperature readings over larger areas. One of the leaked documents states that their aggregation procedure "renders the station counts totally meaningless." The benefit: "So, we can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!"

Academics around the world who have spent years working on papers using this data must be in full panic mode. By the admission of the global-warming theocracy's own self-appointed experts, the data they have been using is simply "garbage."

For global-warming advocates, there is an additional problem: The aggregated data appear to have been constructed to show an increase in temperatures. CBS' Declan McCullagh finds that the computer code contains programmer-written notes addressed to themselves or future people who will be working with the program. The notes include these revealing instructions: "Apply a VERY ARTIFICIAL correction for decline!!" and "Low pass filtering at century and longer time scales never gets rid of the trend - so eventually I start to scale down the 120-yr low pass time series to mimic the effect of removing/adding longer time scales!"

The programmers apparently had to try at least a couple of adjustments before they could get their aggregated data to show an increase in temperatures.

Other global-warming advocates privately acknowledge what they won't concede publicly, that temperature changes haven't been consistent with their models. Kevin E. Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and a prominent man-made-global-warming advocate, wrote in one of the discovered e-mails: "The fact is we can't account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can't."

Still other e-mails document how global-warming advocates tried to silence academic journals and professors who questioned whether there is significant man-made global warming.

We read and reread these CRU documents in stunned amazement. But rather than investigating all the evidence of so much academic fraud and intellectual wrongdoing, the University of East Anglia is denying there is a problem. Professor Trevor Davies, the school's pro vice chancellor for research, issued a defensive statement on Tuesday claiming: "The publication of a selection of the emails and data stolen from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has led to some questioning of the climate science research published by CRU and others. There is nothing in the stolen material which indicates that peer-reviewed publications by CRU, and others, on the nature of global warming and related climate change are not of the highest-quality of scientific investigation and interpretation."

Unlike these global-warming propagandists, we expect research to be done in the open. Scientists who refuse to share their data, who plot to destroy information and fail to tell other scientists how their results were calculated should be severely punished.

Op-Ed Contributors
Yes We Can (Pass Climate Change Legislation)

October 11, 2009


CONVENTIONAL wisdom suggests that the prospect of Congress passing a comprehensive climate change bill soon is rapidly approaching zero. The divisions in our country on how to deal with climate change are deep. Many Democrats insist on tough new standards for curtailing the carbon emissions that cause global warming. Many Republicans remain concerned about the cost to Americans relative to the environmental benefit and are adamant about breaking our addiction to foreign sources of oil.

However, we refuse to accept the argument that the United States cannot lead the world in addressing global climate change. We are also convinced that we have found both a framework for climate legislation to pass Congress and the blueprint for a clean-energy future that will revitalize our economy, protect current jobs and create new ones, safeguard our national security and reduce pollution.

Our partnership represents a fresh attempt to find consensus that adheres to our core principles and leads to both a climate change solution and energy independence. It begins now, not months from now — with a road to 60 votes in the Senate.

It’s true that we come from different parts of the country and represent different constituencies and that we supported different presidential candidates in 2008. We even have different accents. But we speak with one voice in saying that the best way to make America stronger is to work together to address an urgent crisis facing the world.

This process requires honest give-and-take and genuine bipartisanship. In that spirit, we have come together to put forward proposals that address legitimate concerns among Democrats and Republicans and the other constituencies with stakes in this legislation. We’re looking for a new beginning, informed by the work of our colleagues and legislation that is already before Congress.

First, we agree that climate change is real and threatens our economy and national security. That is why we are advocating aggressive reductions in our emissions of the carbon gases that cause climate change. We will minimize the impact on major emitters through a market-based system that will provide both flexibility and time for big polluters to come into compliance without hindering global competitiveness or driving more jobs overseas.

Second, while we invest in renewable energy sources like wind and solar, we must also take advantage of nuclear power, our single largest contributor of emissions-free power. Nuclear power needs to be a core component of electricity generation if we are to meet our emission reduction targets. We need to jettison cumbersome regulations that have stalled the construction of nuclear plants in favor of a streamlined permit system that maintains vigorous safeguards while allowing utilities to secure financing for more plants. We must also do more to encourage serious investment in research and development to find solutions to our nuclear waste problem.

Third, climate change legislation is an opportunity to get serious about breaking our dependence on foreign oil. For too long, we have ignored potential energy sources off our coasts and underground. Even as we increase renewable electricity generation, we must recognize that for the foreseeable future we will continue to burn fossil fuels. To meet our environmental goals, we must do this as cleanly as possible. The United States should aim to become the Saudi Arabia of clean coal. For this reason, we need to provide new financial incentives for companies that develop carbon capture and sequestration technology.

In addition, we are committed to seeking compromise on additional onshore and offshore oil and gas exploration — work that was started by a bipartisan group in the Senate last Congress. Any exploration must be conducted in an environmentally sensitive manner and protect the rights and interests of our coastal states.

Fourth, we cannot sacrifice another job to competitors overseas. China and India are among the many countries investing heavily in clean-energy technologies that will produce millions of jobs. There is no reason we should surrender our marketplace to countries that do not accept environmental standards. For this reason, we should consider a border tax on items produced in countries that avoid these standards. This is consistent with our obligations under the World Trade Organization and creates strong incentives for other countries to adopt tough environmental protections.

Finally, we will develop a mechanism to protect businesses — and ultimately consumers — from increases in energy prices. The central element is the establishment of a floor and a ceiling for the cost of emission allowances. This will also safeguard important industries while they make the investments necessary to join the clean-energy era. We recognize there will be short-term transition costs associated with any climate change legislation, costs that can be eased. But we also believe strongly that the long-term gain will be enormous.

Even climate change skeptics should recognize that reducing our dependence on foreign oil and increasing our energy efficiency strengthens our national security. Both of us served in the military. We know that sending nearly $800 million a day to sometimes-hostile oil-producing countries threatens our security. In the same way, many scientists warn that failing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will lead to global instability and poverty that could put our nation at risk.

Failure to act comes with another cost. If Congress does not pass legislation dealing with climate change, the administration will use the Environmental Protection Agency to impose new regulations. Imposed regulations are likely to be tougher and they certainly will not include the job protections and investment incentives we are proposing.

The message to those who have stalled for years is clear: killing a Senate bill is not success; indeed, given the threat of agency regulation, those who have been content to make the legislative process grind to a halt would later come running to Congress in a panic to secure the kinds of incentives and investments we can pass today. Industry needs the certainty that comes with Congressional action.

We are confident that a legitimate bipartisan effort can put America back in the lead again and can empower our negotiators to sit down at the table in Copenhagen in December and insist that the rest of the world join us in producing a new international agreement on global warming. That way, we will pass on to future generations a strong economy, a clean environment and an energy-independent nation.

John Kerry is a Democratic senator from Massachusetts. Lindsey Graham is a Republican senator from South Carolina.

Editorial: One Way or Another
October 2, 2009

President Obama may not have a comprehensive climate change bill in hand when negotiators meet in Copenhagen in December to try to produce a new agreement on global warming. But the message to major emitters of greenhouse gases in this country — from the executive branch, from the courts and we hope soon from Congress — is increasingly clear: One way or another, emissions are coming down.

On Wednesday, Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry introduced their long-awaited bill to impose nationwide limits on greenhouse gas emissions. And — as both a backstop and a goad to Congress — Lisa Jackson, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, issued proposed rules that would regulate emissions from power plants and other large industrial sources.

Both the Senate bill and the E.P.A. proposal would cover about 14,000 power plants, refineries and other large facilities that, together, produce more than 70 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

President Obama, Ms. Jackson (and this page) would much prefer a broad, market-based legislative solution carrying the imprimatur of Congress. Such an approach would set overall targets and let emitters figure out the best way of meeting them; the regulatory option would require an agency of limited resources to police a huge chunk of the economy on a case-by-case basis.

But by endorsing regulation, Mr. Obama is leaving no doubt that he will do what it takes to protect the environment. It also means that if Congress fails, his negotiators won’t go to Copenhagen with an empty suitcase.

The Senate bill is largely modeled on the climate bill that passed the House last summer, and in some respects it is an improvement. It would mandate heavy investments in new job-producing, clean-energy technologies. At its heart is a provision that seeks to cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, a more aggressive target than the House bill’s 17 percent.

Its mechanism for doing so is a cap-and-trade system that would place a steadily declining ceiling on emissions while allowing emitters to trade allowances or permits to give them flexibility in meeting their targets. The point is to raise the cost of older, dirtier fuels while steering investments to cleaner ones.

The Senate bill also avoids some of the House bill’s worst vices. The House version, for example, would restrict the E.P.A.’s authority to regulate emissions from stationary sources — the very authority Ms. Jackson has just invoked.

Mrs. Boxer, Mr. Kerry and the Senate leadership face a very tough slog to reach the magic filibuster-proof number of 60 senators. Moderate Democrats from industrial states who can normally been counted on fear that the bill would raise energy costs to local businesses to unacceptable levels. Though these fears are greatly exaggerated, some horse trading will be necessary. What cannot be traded away are the mandatory limits on emissions that are the core of the bill.

Rerun of last French election coming?

France Mulls CO2 Taxes on Citizens
By James Kanter
September 7, 2009, 10:01 am

The French government plans next year to begin making heavy users of household and transport fuels bear more of the tax burden. President Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to say in coming weeks that such a shift is necessary to nudge French citizens toward cleaner alternatives.

The tax would reportedly start at about 14 euros (or $20) for each ton of CO2 emitted, and could rise to levels of around 100 euros ($143) for each ton by 2030. That could mean substantial increases in the price of gasoline and diesel, as well as a sizable jump in the cost of keeping homes warm.

But skeptics say the idea may have less to do with clean energy, and more to do with a desire on the part of Mr. Sarkozy’s government to find new ways to keep the national debt in check.  In addition, members of the opposition Socialist party have slammed the plan, suggesting it would unfairly burden lower income citizens — particularly those who are obliged to use their cars.

Segolene Royal, a former presidential candidate, has instead called for direct taxes on gasoline and other energy companies.

Op-Ed Columnist
Just Do It
July 1, 2009

There is much in the House cap-and-trade energy bill that just passed that I absolutely hate. It is too weak in key areas and way too complicated in others. A simple, straightforward carbon tax would have made much more sense than this Rube Goldberg contraption. It is pathetic that we couldn’t do better. It is appalling that so much had to be given away to polluters. It stinks. It’s a mess. I detest it.

Now let’s get it passed in the Senate and make it law.

Why? Because, for all its flaws, this bill is the first comprehensive attempt by America to mitigate climate change by putting a price on carbon emissions. Rejecting this bill would have been read in the world as America voting against the reality and urgency of climate change and would have undermined clean energy initiatives everywhere.

More important, my gut tells me that if the U.S. government puts a price on carbon, even a weak one, it will usher in a new mind-set among consumers, investors, farmers, innovators and entrepreneurs that in time will make a big difference — much like the first warnings that cigarettes could cause cancer. The morning after that warning no one ever looked at smoking the same again.

Ditto if this bill passes. Henceforth, every investment decision made in America — about how homes are built, products manufactured or electricity generated — will look for the least-cost low-carbon option. And weaving carbon emissions into every business decision will drive innovation and deployment of clean technologies to a whole new level and make energy efficiency much more affordable. That ain’t beanbag.

Now that the bill is heading for the Senate, though, we must, ideally, try to improve it, but, at a minimum, guard against diluting it any further. To do that we need the help of the three parties most responsible for how weak the bill already is: the Republican Party, President Barack Obama and We the People.

This bill is not weak because its framers, Representatives Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, wanted it this way. “They had to make the compromises they did,” said Dan Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, “because almost every House Republican voted against the bill and did nothing to try to improve it. So to get it passed, they needed every coal-state Democrat, and that meant they had to water it down to bring them on board.”

What are Republicans thinking? It is not as if they put forward a different strategy, like a carbon tax. Does the G.O.P. want to be the party of sex scandals and polluters or does it want to be a partner in helping America dominate the next great global industry: E.T. — energy technology? How could Republicans become so anti-environment, just when the country is going green?

Historically speaking, “Republicans can claim as much credit for America’s environmental leadership as Democrats,” noted Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. “The two greatest environmental presidents in American history were Teddy Roosevelt, who created our national park system, and Richard Nixon, whose administration gave us the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency.” George Bush Sr. signed the 1993 Rio Treaty, to preserve biodiversity.

Yes, this bill’s goal of reducing U.S. carbon emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 is nowhere near what science tells us we need to mitigate climate change. But it also contains significant provisions to prevent new buildings from becoming energy hogs, to make our appliances the most energy efficient in the world and to help preserve forests in places like the Amazon.

We need Republicans who believe in fiscal conservatism and conservation joining this legislation in the Senate. We want a bill that transforms the whole country not one that just threads a political needle. I hope they start listening to green Republicans like Dick Lugar, George Shultz and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I also hope we will hear more from President Obama. Something feels very calculating in how he has approached this bill, as if he doesn’t quite want to get his hands dirty, as if he is ready to twist arms in private, but not so much that if the bill goes down he will get tarnished. That is no way to fight this war. He is going to have to mobilize the whole country to pressure the Senate — by educating Americans, with speech after speech, about the opportunities and necessities of a serious climate/energy bill. If he is not ready to risk failure by going all out, failure will be the most likely result.

And then there is We the People. Attention all young Americans: your climate future is being decided right now in the cloakrooms of the Capitol, where the coal lobby holds huge sway. You want to make a difference? Then get out of Facebook and into somebody’s face. Get a million people on the Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon. That will get the Senate’s attention. Play hardball or don’t play at all.

House passes historic 'cap-and-trade' energy bill: GOP leader Boehner says bill would hike electricity and gasoline prices
By Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch
Jun 27, 2009, 11:59 a.m. EST

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) -- Handing President Barack Obama a victory on one of his top priorities, lawmakers in the House of Representatives narrowly approved on Friday a sweeping bill to curb greenhouse-gas emissions and boost use of renewable energy in the United States, overcoming the objections of critics who said the bill would wreak severe damage on the American economy.

The House passed the bill by a vote of 219 to 212 after a day of intense debate that began shortly after 9 a.m. Eastern time. Eight Republicans voted for it and 44 Democrats voted against it.

The bill would put in place the first national limit on greenhouse-gas emissions.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., one of the bill's chief sponsors, said lawmakers couldn't afford to lose what he called an historic opportunity to protect U.S. national security by investing in new sources of energy and combating global warming, which he called "real and moving very rapidly."

The bill would put in place the first national limit on greenhouse-gas emissions.

"This is revolutionary," said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., the bill's other chief sponsor. He called the bill the most important environmental and energy bill Congress has ever considered.

But Republicans including House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, have slammed the bill for weeks as job-killer, with Boehner saying Friday that it's "the most profound piece of legislation to come to this floor in 100 years."

The 1,500-page bill seeks to slash greenhouse-gas emissions to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020 through a "cap-and-trade" system. By the middle of the century, it would cut emissions to 80% below 2005 levels. Read text of the bill.

Instead of ending debate for Republicans before the vote on the energy bill early last night, as many expected, Boehner spent over an hour reading through a 300-page-amendment to the bill that was added at the last minute.

"The American people have the right to know what is in this legislation and, more importantly, what impact it will have on middle-class families and small businesses. In just an hour, we raised serious questions about the true consequences of this legislation for Americans' jobs and all of our economy," Boehner said.

Boehner argued the bill, which Republicans have dubbed "cap-and-tax," legislation, would raise electricity and gasoline prices.

Obama made a fresh pitch for the bill earlier Friday during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, calling it a "critical" measure "that will promote a new generation of clean, renewable energy in our country."

But even members of Obama's own party -- such as House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota -- expressed deep reservations about the measure, saying it would saddle farmers and consumers with burdensome obligations.

Obama has touted the bill as a job creator, saying Thursday at the White House that it will create incentives "that will spark a clean-energy transformation of our economy."

Capping emissions, boosting renewables
The "cap-and-trade" system set up by the bill would establish a marketplace in which companies would be able to buy and sell pollution permits to meet emissions limits.

In addition, the sweeping bill plows billions of dollars into clean-energy technologies and energy-efficiency initiatives, such as electric vehicles and carbon capture and sequestration.

The bill also requires electric utilities to meet 20% of their electricity demand through renewable sources by 2020.

Energy-related stocks fell with the broader market as the House prepared to vote on Friday. See Energy Stocks.

'Economic disaster bill'
Republicans have called the bill an energy tax on consumers and businesses that will wind up raising unemployment and moving jobs overseas as American companies struggle to meet the pollution caps.

"It is an economic disaster bill for the United States of America if it were to pass," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, as House members began debating the bill Friday morning.

Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., the top Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, said the bill was the biggest economic threat to American farmers and ranchers in decades. "This is the wrong bill at the wrong time for the wrong reason."

Republicans have said the bill would cost $3,000 per family. Earlier this week, a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill showed that the annual per-household cost would be $175 in 2020.

Republicans have said the bill would cost $3,000 per family. Earlier this week, however, a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill showed that the annual per-household cost would be $175 in 2020.

A Republican substitute energy bill failed on Friday by a vote of 256 to 172. The bill would have set up prizes and grants for energy technologies.

On Thursday, Obama said that the cost to consumers from the bill "will be about the same as a postage stamp per day" over 10 years.

The House vote was expected to be close, even though Democrats have 256 seats in the 435-member chamber.

The focus now turns to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has said he plans to bring an energy bill to the floor in the fall. But committees are working piecemeal on energy legislation.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved an energy bill last week, but it did not include a cap-and-trade system. However, it included provisions about developing clean energy technologies and energy efficiency that are similar to those in the House bill.

Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is working on a cap-and-trade regime in her committee, and has said she is hoping to build on the House bill.

But passage by the Senate of the cap-and-trade system isn't certain, with some Democrats there also wary of its effect on industries.

Fore!   This looks like some British Open courses!

As Alaska Glaciers Melt, It’s Land That’s Rising
May 18, 2009

JUNEAU, Alaska — Global warming conjures images of rising seas that threaten coastal areas. But in Juneau, as almost nowhere else in the world, climate change is having the opposite effect: As the glaciers here melt, the land is rising, causing the sea to retreat.

Morgan DeBoer, a property owner, opened a nine-hole golf course at the mouth of Glacier Bay in 1998, on land that was underwater when his family first settled here 50 years ago.

“The highest tides of the year would come into what is now my driving range area,” Mr. DeBoer said.

Now, with the high-tide line receding even farther, he is contemplating adding another nine holes.

“It just keeps rising,” he said.

The geology is complex, but it boils down to this: Relieved of billions of tons of glacial weight, the land has risen much as a cushion regains its shape after someone gets up from a couch. The land is ascending so fast that the rising seas — a ubiquitous byproduct of global warming — cannot keep pace. As a result, the relative sea level is falling, at a rate “among the highest ever recorded,” according to a 2007 report by a panel of experts convened by Mayor Bruce Botelho of Juneau.

Greenland and a few other places have experienced similar effects from widespread glacial melting that began more than 200 years ago, geologists say. But, they say, the effects are more noticeable in and near Juneau, where most glaciers are retreating 30 feet a year or more.

As a result, the region faces unusual environmental challenges. As the sea level falls relative to the land, water tables fall, too, and streams and wetlands dry out. Land is emerging from the water to replace the lost wetlands, shifting property boundaries and causing people to argue about who owns the acreage and how it should be used. And meltwater carries the sediment scoured long ago by the glaciers to the coast, where it clouds the water and silts up once-navigable channels.

A few decades ago, large boats could sail regularly along Gastineau Channel between Downtown Juneau and Douglas Island, to Auke Bay, a port about 10 miles to the northwest. Today, much of the channel is exposed mudflat at low tide. “There is so much sediment coming in from the Mendenhall Glacier and the rivers — it has basically silted in,” said Bruce Molnia, a geologist at the United States Geological Survey who studies Alaskan glaciers.

Already, people can wade across the channel at low tide — or race across it, as they do in the Mendenhall Mud Run. At low tide, the navigation buoys rest on mud.

Eventually, as the land rises and the channel silts up, Douglas Island will be linked to the mainland by dry land, said Eran Hood, a hydrologist at the University of Alaska Southeast and an author of the 2007 report, “Climate Change: Predicted Impacts on Juneau.”

When that happens, Dr. Hood said, the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge, 4,000 acres of boggy habitat, will be lost. “That wetland will have nowhere else to go,” he said.

In some places along the coast, the change has been so rapid that kayakers whose charts are not up-to-the-minute can find themselves carrying their boats over shoals that are now so high and dry they now support grass or even small trees.

In and around Juneau, “you can walk around and see what was underwater is turning into grassland and eventually into forest,” Dr. Hood said.

The topographical changes have threatened crucial ecosystems and even locally vital species like salmon.

“The lifeblood of our region has been salmon species and their return — and what is the impact when they return and the streams are dry?” said Mayor Botelho, who was born and raised in Juneau. “The salmon is bound to our identity as a region, who we are.”

He said he did not think that any species were in imminent danger, but added, “Anyone who is following climate change has to see that there are risks, perhaps great ones.”

Dr. Hood said many people in Juneau had hoped to maintain a waterway called Duck Creek as a salmon stream. But small streams like that “appear to be drying out,” he said. “There are a lot of people in town saying, Let’s just let it return to a greenway.”

Relative to the sea, land here has risen as much as 10 feet in little more than 200 years, according to the 2007 report. As global warming accelerates, the land will continue to rise, perhaps three more feet by 2100, scientists say.

The rise is further fueled by the movement of the tectonic plates that form the earth’s crust. As the Pacific plate pushes under the North American plate, Juneau and its hilly Tongass National Forest environs rise still more.

“When you combine tectonics and glacial readjustment, you get rates that are incomprehensible,” Dr. Molnia said.

In Gustavus, where Mr. DeBoer’s property is, the land is rising almost three inches a year, Dr. Molnia said, making it “the fastest-rising place in North America.”

In addition to expanding the golf course, Mr. DeBoer is negotiating with the Nature Conservancy to preserve some of the newly emergent land. He can do both, he said, because the high tide line has pushed almost a mile out to sea since his family first homesteaded on the property.

Where the shoreline is relatively flat, “it doesn’t take much uplift to make quite a bit of difference,” Mr. DeBoer said.

Kristin White, a 28-year-old schoolteacher who grew up in Haines, a town north of here, is from another family in the area whose real estate grew as land rose. When her father tried to sell some property in Haines, she said, “he had to have it resurveyed.”

But for Ms. White, who has vivid memories of visiting the Mendenhall glacier as a child, the gain in acreage has been bittersweet. Seeing the glacier retreat, she said, is “as if you lived in the Smoky Mountains and you were used to seeing certain peaks — and they disappeared. It’s just totally, totally sad.”

Obama Won't Fight Global Warming With Bear Rules
Filed at 6:23 p.m. ET
May 8, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Obama administration, which promised a sharp break from the Bush White House on global warming, declared Friday it would stick with a Bush-era policy against expanding protection for climate-threatened polar bears and ruled out a broad new attack on greenhouse gases.

To the dismay of environmentalists, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar refused to rescind a Bush administration rule that says actions that threaten the polar bear's survival cannot be considered when safeguarding the iconic mammal if they occur outside the bear's Arctic home.

The rule was aimed at heading off the possibility that the bear's survival could be cited by opponents of power plants and other facilities that produce carbon dioxide, a leading pollutant blamed for global warming.

The Endangered Species Act requires that a threatened or endangered species must have its habitat protected. Environmentalists say that in the case of the polar bear, the biggest threat comes from pollution -- mainly carbon dioxide from faraway power plants, factories and cars -- that is warming the Earth and melting Arctic sea ice.

Salazar agreed that global warming was ''the single greatest threat'' to the bear's survival, but disagreed that the federal law protecting animals, plants and fish should be used to address climate change.

''The Endangered Species Act is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue, and that is the issue of global warming,'' said Salazar, echoing much the same view of his Republican predecessor, Dirk Kempthorne, who had declared the polar bear officially threatened and in need of protection under the federal species law.

Kempthorne at the same time issued the ''special rule'' that limited the scope of the bear's protection to actions within its Arctic home.

The iconic polar bear -- some 25,000 of the mammals can be found across the Arctic region from Alaska to Greenland -- has become a symbol of the potential ravages of climate change. Scientists say while the bear population has more than doubled since the 1960s, as many as 15,000 could be lost in the coming decades because of the loss of Arctic sea ice, a key element of its habitat.

Environmentalists and some members of Congress had strongly urged Salazar to rescind the Bush regulation, arguing the bear is not being given the full protection required under the species law.

Others, including most of the business community, argue that making the bear a reason for curtailing greenhouse gases thousands of miles from its home would cause economic chaos.

Reaction to Salazar's decision Friday was sharply divided.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hailed the decision as a ''clear victory for Alaska'' because it removes the link between bear protection and climate change and should help North Slope oil and gas development. Both of Alaska's senators and its only House member also praised the decision and rejected claims the bear won't be protected.

Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, a global warming skeptic and the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment Committee, applauded Salazar ''for making the right call and applying a commonsense approach to the Endangered Species Act'' and climate.

But environmentalists and some of their leading advocates in Congress were disappointed.

''The polar bear is threatened, and we need to act,'' said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., who chairs the environment panel, adding that she disagreed with Salazar's decision not to revoke the Bush regulation.

Andrew Wetzler, director of wildlife conservation at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the Endangered Species Act should be part of the government's arsenal in fighting climate change ''and it shouldn't be unilaterally disarming itself for no reason.''

''For Salazar to adopt Bush's polar bear extinction plan is confirming the worst fears of his tenure as secretary of interior,'' said Noah Greenwald, of the Center for Biological Diversity, which along with the NRDC and Greenpeace has a lawsuit pending challenging the bear rule.

Salazar noted that he has overturned a string of Bush-era regulations, including last week restoring a requirement that agencies consult with the government's most knowledgeable biologists when taking actions that could harm species. ''We must do all we can to protect the polar bear,'' he said, but that using the species protection law ''is not the right way to go.''

The way to deal with climate change is a broad cap on greenhouse gases, he said.

Congress is considering cap-and-trade legislation forcing a reduction on greenhouse gases, and, separately, the Environmental Protection Agency has begun working on a climate regulation under the Clean Air Act. Last month, the EPA declared carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and other greenhouse gases a danger to public health.

The last word is still to be heard on linking species protection and climate change.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a review of whether the American pika, a tiny rabbit relative living in high altitudes of 10 Western states, is threatened by climate change because the mountain areas are becoming warmer.

The American pika is no polar bear, but the arguments may be the same.

Congress debates climate bill's higher energy prices
Norwalk HOUR
Associated Press
Posted on 04/21/2009


As Congress begins to debate climate change in earnest, the science is taking a back seat to economics: How much will it cost to slow the Earth's warming because of man-made pollution -- and what's the cost of doing nothing?  With a key House committee starting four days of hearings, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., vowed to get a climate bill approved this year. She told reporters by the next Earth Day "we want to celebrate what we've done this year" to address climate change and clean energy.

But the challenge of getting bipartisan support immediately became apparent.  The Energy and Commerce Committee hearing had barely begun when Republicans raised their concerns about higher energy prices produced by putting an added price for burning fossil fuels.

"In its current form, this bill may do more harm to our economy than any bill that is likely to come before Congress for the rest of this year, or perhaps during my natural lifetime," declared Rep. Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., whose state's already is reeling economically and home to energy-intensive industries, said the economic impact of the bill drafted by Democrats "cannot be overstated" unless ways are found to blunt expected increases in energy costs.

The Democratic proposal calls for broad limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, meaning energy from fossil fuels, especially coal in the production of electricity, will become more expensive. It would cut greenhouse gases by 20 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and 83 percent by mid-century.  The bill also includes a string of measures aimed at reducing the use of fossil energy such as requiring utilities to produce a quarter of their electricity from renewable sources, and calling for tougher standards to promote energy efficiency.

The proposed "cap-and-trade" system would limit greenhouse gas emissions and allow industries to buy and sell emissions credits in the open market to make it easier, and less expensive, to comply with the emissions ceiling.  A key question yet to be resolved is how the government should make available pollution permits: Sell all at an auction or provide them for free to industries most greatly affected such as coal-burning power plants and energy intensive industries.

"We need to talk that through with our members," said Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who said he's confident "it will be resolved in the legislative process."

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., whose subcommittee crafting the bill, said some emissions permits likely will be given to energy-intensive industries threatened by imports. Keeping energy costs down, "that's our commitment, our goal," he told reporters.

President Barack Obama wants all of the permits auctioned off with billions of dollars in auction proceeds to blunt the cost hikes of electricity and other energy as fossil-fuel generated energy becomes more expensive.  The Environmental Protection Agency in a preliminary review of the House draft said the emission reduction can come at a relatively small cost -- as little as $13 a ton of carbon dioxide -- in 2015 and produce significant energy savings through improved efficiency.

The policy "will have relatively modest impact on U.S. consumers" if most of the money collected by permit auctions are returned to households, said the EPA on Tuesday.

But Republicans are opposed to the Democrats' cap-and-trade approach in general and a number of Democrats from coal-producing and industrial states argue some ways must be found to limit the economic impact in their regions.

Failing to provide free emission allowances to certain industries is "a dealbreaker" for many lawmakers, said Dingell.

"We cannot know the true cost of this bill until the permit issue has been decided," said Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

The four days of hearings during which the committee is to hear from about 60 witnesses -- environmentalists, business groups and academics all hoping to shape the final legislation -- is expected to focus largely on economic costs.  But in the current tough economic times, Republican critics of the bill believe the cost issue will resonate with the public and, in turn, with lawmakers.

"The question is can we do this in a way that boosts our economy and not hurts it, that creates jobs in America and not sends them overseas," asked Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa. He didn't have an answer.

Todd Stern

US Takes New Climate Change Agenda to Global Talks

Filed at 10:03 a.m. ET

March 28, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Joining climate change negotiations for the first time, the Obama administration is trying to convince other countries that the U.S. does care about global warming and wants to shape an international accord.

After eight years on the sidelines, the U.S. says it is ready for a central role in developing a new agreement to slash greenhouse gases. But whether the U.S, which is the second largest source of heat-trapping pollution, is ready to sign onto a deal by year's end could depend on Congress.

The State Department sent climate envoy Todd Stern to Bonn, Germany, for the first of a series of largely technical meetings that begin Sunday. The talks are hoped to lay the groundwork for an agreement to be signed in December in Denmark.

Stern, in a telephone interview Thursday with The Associated Press from London, said it was important for him to attend and ''make the first statement on behalf of the United States and say we're back, we're serious, we're here, we're committed and we're going to try to get this thing done.''

He added, ''We want to convey that we mean it.''

Yvo de Boer, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which is hosting the Bonn talks, said participants ''will be very excited'' to hear Stern outline the basic principles that will guide the U.S.

Other countries are expecting a new tone after eight years during which the Bush administration made clear its disdain for any climate discussions aimed at securing a commitment to mandatory greenhouse gas reductions.

This time the U.S. delegation represents the views of a White House committed to mandatory action on climate change. And unlike 1997, when the Kyoto Protocol was drafted, there is now a Democratic-controlled Congress moving to embrace mandatory limits on greenhouse gases.

Back then, the United States lacked support for mandatory actions to achieve the reductions the U.S. had signed on to. Congress never ratified that accord and the Bush administration later rejected it outright, citing the lack of participation from developing countries.

That lack of involvement and the cost of emission cuts, in form of higher energy bills, have dominated the U.S. debate over Kyoto for years. Those issues have not have not disappeared.

But President Barack Obama has acted to reduce U.S. greenhouse gases and wants Congress to pass a cap-and-trade program that would cut global warming pollution 80 percent by mid-century.

''The president has embarked on a strong domestic program already and there is much more coming,'' Stern said at a briefing Friday in Berlin.

Stern said the U.S. position on an international agreement will be framed by what happens in Congress. The reductions expected to be required by Congress will be the basis for what the U.S. can commit to reducing, he said.

But Congress already is trying to address the recession, health care and other priorities. ''This will be a big, big fight to get the domestic piece done,'' Stern conceded.

Many European countries want the U.S. to adopt stronger short-term targets, equal to a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020. Obama has called for reaching 1990 levels by then, a roughly 15 percent cut.

Stern has warned European leaders that their demands will lead to stalemate.

In Germany, the U.S. team is expected to spend most of its time listening and forming relationships rather than discussing concrete proposals.

That ''is unfortunate given the intense timetable between now and Copenhagen, but understandable,'' said Jennifer Havercamp, who leads Environmental Defense Fund's international climate negotiations team. ''It will not achieve a lot of substantive progress in the negotiations because the Obama team is so new.''

AP Source: EPA Closer to Global Warming Warning
Filed at 6:30 a.m. ET
March 24, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Environmental Protection Agency has taken the first step on the long road to regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

Politicians and the public, business and industry will have to weigh in along the way, but for now a proposed finding by the EPA that global warming is a threat to public health and welfare is under White House review.

The threat declaration would be the first step to regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act and could have broad economic and environmental ramifications. It also would probably spur action by Congress to address climate change more broadly.

The White House acknowledged Monday that the EPA had transmitted its proposed finding on global warming to the Office of Management and Budget, but provided no details. It also cautioned that the Obama administration, which sees responding to climate change a top priority, nevertheless is ready to move cautiously when it comes to actually regulating greenhouse gases, preferring to have Congress act on the matter.

The Supreme Court two years ago directed the EPA to decide whether greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, pose a threat to public health and welfare because they are warming the earth. If such a finding is made, these emissions are required to be regulated under the Clean Air Act, the court said.

''I think this is just the step in that process,'' said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, noting the Supreme Court ruling. Another White House official, speaking anonymously in deference to Gibbs, predicted ''a long process'' before any rules would be expected to be issued on heat-trapping emissions.

But several congressional officials, also speaking on condition of anonymity because the draft declaration had not been made public -- said the transmission makes clear the EPA is moving to declare carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases a danger to public health and welfare and views them as ripe for regulation under the Clean Air Act.

Such a finding ''will officially end the era of denial on global warming,'' said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., whose Energy and Commerce subcommittee is crafting global warming legislation. He said such an endangerment finding is long overdue because of the Bush administration's refusal to address the issue.

The EPA action ''signals that the days of ignoring this pressing issue are over,'' said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., whose Senate committee is working on a climate bill.

Many business leaders argue -- as did President George W. Bush -- that the Clean Air Act is ill-suited to deal with climate change and that regulating carbon dioxide would hamstring economic growth.

''It will require a huge cascade of (new clean air) permits'' and halt a wide array of projects, from building coal plants to highway construction, including many at the heart of President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan, said Bill Kovacs, a vice president for environmental and technology issues at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Abigail Dillen, an attorney for the environmental advocacy group Earthjustice, which is involved in a number of lawsuits challenging permits for new coal plants, dismissed the dire economic warnings from business groups about carbon dioxide regulation.

''It's to their interest to say the sky is falling, but it's not,'' she said. ''The truth is we've never had to sacrifice air quality to maintain a healthy economy. The EPA has discretion to do this in a reasonable way.''

An internal EPA planning document that surfaced recently suggests the agency would like to have a final endangerment finding by mid-April. But officials have made clear actual regulations are unlikely to come immediately and would involve a lengthy process with public comment.

Gibbs, when asked about the EPA document Monday, emphasized that ''the president has made quite clear'' that he prefers to have the climate issue addressed by Congress as part of a broad, mandatory limit on heat-trapping emissions.

But environmentalists said the significance of moving forward with the long-delayed endangerment issue should not be understated.

''This is historic news,'' said Frank O'Donnell, who heads Clean Air Watch, an advocacy group. ''It will set the stage for the first-ever national limits on global warming pollution and is likely to help light a fire under Congress to get moving.''

Department of Environmental Commissioner Gina McCarthy is the second woman in the state of Connecticut history to hold that job (MARC-YVES REGIS I / HARTFORD COURANT / July 28, 2005)

Air and Radiation expertise?
Gina McCarthy's Confirmation Hearing Thursday in D.C./guess what?  Gina McCarthy now to bethe head of E.P.A. in 2013

Hartford Courant
By Christopher Keating
April 1, 2009 8:50 PM

As the state's senior senator, Democrat Christopher J. Dodd has the chance to maintain the longstanding Senate tradition that allows the lawmaker to officially introduce any high-level nominees from Connecticut to his colleagues in Washington, D.C.

Dodd will do that Thursday when he introduces the state's well-regarded environmental protection commissioner, Gina McCarthy, immediately before her public testimony to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. McCarthy was nominated recently by President Barack Obama to be the assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The hearing will be held in Room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

GLOBAL WARMING: Obama Taps State DEP Chief For Federal Job
By RINKER BUCK | The Hartford Courant
March 13, 2009
Gina McCarthy, the state's environmental protection commissioner, has been nominated for a major position in Washington handling climate change.

McCarthy's would be the first departure of a Connecticut official for the Obama administration, and because she has worked for two Republican governors — Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and M. Jodi Rell of Connecticut — her nomination is considered an important bipartisan choice made by the new president.

The DEP chief has been nominated to be assistant administrator for air and radiation at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where one of her principal responsibilities will be coordinating climate change policy with individual states and other nations.

The White House announced McCarthy's nomination, and three others for key posts in the administration, on Thursday.

President Barack Obama has vowed to make climate change one of the most important policy initiatives of his presidency. McCarthy, a proponent of aggressive steps to reduce emissions contributing to global warming, will be at the center of a major effort to reverse America's environmental direction after almost a decade of lackluster enforcement of clean air rules by the Bush administration.

McCarthy earned high visibility as Connecticut's environmental commissioner for her "No Child Left Inside" campaign, urging greater use of state parks. She was also credited with leading the effort to promote the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative program in the Northeast to reduce emissions contributing to global warming. That placed her in a strong position to be considered by the Obama administration.

Rell recruited McCarthy to run the DEP in 2004 after a much-heralded national search. Before coming to Connecticut, McCarthy worked on the environment in Massachusetts in various capacities at the local and state levels. She was the deputy secretary of operations for the Massachusetts Office of Commonwealth Development, which is a "super secretariat" that coordinates the policies and programs of the state's environmental, energy, housing and transportation agencies.

"Gina is full of energy and excitement for the global warming issue, and I am excited for her and the Obama administration," said Gary Yohe, a Wesleyan University economist who shared the 2007 Nobel Prize with Al Gore for studying and disseminating information about global warming. Yohe has worked with McCarthy on global warming issues Connecticut faces.

But Yohe pointed out that global warming initiatives still face considerable opposition in Congress, and that this will be one of McCarthy's toughest challenges.

"There are still members of Congress who will exploit every nuance of difference on policy to hold up progress, and who consider 'cap and trade' programs to reduce gas emissions as a tax," Yohe said. "The Senate still doesn't have 60 votes to bring a climate change bill to a vote, and this will be a problem for McCarthy to address."

Rell hailed McCarthy's service to the state.

"Her leadership on climate issues is nationally respected," Rell said, "so it comes as no surprise that the Obama administration would reach out to Commissioner McCarthy, a dedicated public servant with tremendous talent and passion. While we certainly would hate to lose her in Connecticut, it is reassuring to know she would be working to preserve and improve the environment for all Americans."

Although enthusiastic about McCarthy's ascendancy to a national role, state environmentalists are concerned about whether Rell can find a replacement of her caliber.

"It's really important for Connecticut who Gov. Rell chooses to replace McCarthy," said Yohe. "Whoever succeeds her will be playing a leading role in [the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative], and that's very important for the state."

DEP spokesman Dennis Schain said that McCarthy will continue to work at her state job until the Senate votes on her nomination.

10 March 2009
Sea rise 'to exceed projections'
By David Shukman
Environment correspondent, BBC News, Copenhagen

Thames barrier, London (Image: AP)
The research has "severe implications" for low-lying cities, such as London

The global sea level looks set to rise far higher than forecast because of changes in the polar ice-sheets, a team of researchers has suggested.

Scientists at a climate change summit in Copenhagen said earlier UN estimates were too low and that sea levels could rise by a metre or more by 2100.

The projections did not include the potential impact of polar melting and ice breaking off, they added.

The implications for millions of people would be "severe", they warned.

Ten per cent of the world's population - about 600 million people - live in low-lying areas.
Moulin (A.Behar/Nasa)

Explorers dive under Greenland ice

The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, had said that the maximum rise in sea level would be in the region of 59cm.

Professor Konrad Steffen from the University of Colorado, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, highlighted new studies into ice loss in Greenland, showing it has accelerated over the last decade.

Professor Steffen, who has studied the Arctic ice for the past 35 years, told me: "I would predict sea level rise by 2100 in the order of one metre; it could be 1.2m or 0.9m.

"But it is one metre or more seeing the current change, which is up to three times more than the average predicted by the IPCC."

"It is a major change and it actually calls for action."

Dr John Church of the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research added: "The most recent research showed that sea level is rising by 3mm a year since 1993, a rate well above the 20th century average."

Ice flow

Professor Eric Rignot, a senior research scientist at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that results gathered since the IPCC showed that melting and ice loss could not be overlooked.

"As a result of the acceleration of outlet glaciers over large regions, the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica are already contributing more and faster to sea level rise than anticipated," he observed.

Professor Stefan Ramstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said: "Based on past experience, I expect that sea level rise will accelerate as the planet gets hotter."

The forecasts by the team of scientists are critically important for coastal communities.

At Lowestoft, on the UK's east coast, the Environment Agency official in charge of coastal protection, David Kemp, said that even small rises in sea level could be overwhelming.

"Put bluntly, if it's 10cm below the height of the defence, then there's no problem," he told me.

"But if it's 10cm above the defence, then we could be looking at devastation.

"It looks very benign today but the North Sea can turn into a very ferocious beast."

Findings: Politics in the Guise of Pure Science

February 24, 2009

Why, since President Obama promised to “restore science to its rightful place” in Washington, do some things feel not quite right?

First there was Steven Chu, the physicist and new energy secretary, warning The Los Angeles Times that climate change could make water so scarce by century’s end that “there’s no more agriculture in California” and no way to keep the state’s cities going, either.

Then there was the hearing in the Senate to confirm another physicist, John Holdren, to be the president’s science adviser. Dr. Holdren was asked about some of his gloomy neo-Malthusian warnings in the past, like his calculation in the 1980s that famines due to climate change could leave a billion people dead by 2020. Did he still believe that?

“I think it is unlikely to happen,” Dr. Holdren told the senators, but he insisted that it was still “a possibility” that “we should work energetically to avoid.”

Well, I suppose it never hurts to go on the record in opposition to a billion imaginary deaths. But I have a more immediate concern: Will Mr. Obama’s scientific counselors give him realistic plans for dealing with global warming and other threats? To borrow a term from Roger Pielke Jr.: Can these scientists be honest brokers?

Dr. Pielke, a professor in the environmental studies program at the University of Colorado, is the author of “The Honest Broker,” a book arguing that most scientists are fundamentally mistaken about their role in political debates. As a result, he says, they’re jeopardizing their credibility while impeding solutions to problems like global warming.

Most researchers, Dr. Pielke writes, like to think of themselves in one of two roles: as a pure researcher who remains aloof from messy politics, or an impartial arbiter offering expert answers to politicians’ questions. Either way, they believe their research can point the way to correct public policies, and sometimes it does — when the science is clear and people’s values aren’t in conflict.

But climate change, like most political issues, isn’t so simple. While most scientists agree that anthropogenic global warming is a threat, they’re not certain about its scale or its timing or its precise consequences (like the condition of California’s water supply in 2090). And while most members of the public want to avoid future harm from climate change, they have conflicting values about which sacrifices are worthwhile today.

A scientist can enter the fray by becoming an advocate for certain policies, like limits on carbon emissions or subsidies for wind power. That’s a perfectly legitimate role for scientists, as long as they acknowledge that they’re promoting their own agendas.

But too often, Dr. Pielke says, they pose as impartial experts pointing politicians to the only option that makes scientific sense. To bolster their case, they’re prone to exaggerate their expertise (like enumerating the catastrophes that would occur if their policies aren’t adopted), while denigrating their political opponents as “unqualified” or “unscientific.”

“Some scientists want to influence policy in a certain direction and still be able to claim to be above politics,” Dr. Pielke says. “So they engage in what I call ‘stealth issue advocacy’ by smuggling political arguments into putative scientific ones.”

In Dr. Pielke’s book, one example of this stealthy advocate is the nominee for White House science adviser, Dr. Holdren, a longtime proponent of policies to slow population growth and control energy use. (See TierneyLab, for more on his background.) He appears in a chapter analyzing the reaction of scientists to “The Skeptical Environmentalist,” a 2001 book arguing that many ecological dangers had been exaggerated.

Dr. Holdren called it his “scientific duty” to expose the “complete incompetence” of the book’s author, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish political scientist. Dr. Holdren was one of the authors of an extraordinary 11-page attack on the book that ran in Scientific American under the headline, “Science defends itself against ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist’ ” — as if “science” spoke with one voice.

After reviewing the criticisms, Dr. Pielke concludes that a more accurate headline would have been, “Our political perspective defends itself against the political agenda of ‘The Skeptical Environmentalist.’ ”

“Public debates over climate change,” Dr. Pielke says, “often are about seemingly technical questions when they are really about who should have authority in the political debate. The debate over the science thus politicizes the science and distracts from policy.”

Dr. Pielke suggests that scientists could do more good if, instead of discrediting rivals’ expertise, they acknowledge political differences and don’t expect them to be resolved by science. Instead of steering politicians to a preferred policy, these honest brokers would use their expertise to expand the array of technically feasible options.

What would honest brokers tell the president about global warming? Dr. Pielke, who calls himself an Obamite, says he’s concerned that the presidents’ advisers seem uniformly focused on cutting carbon emissions through a domestic cap-and-trade law and a new international treaty.

It’s fine to try that strategy, he says, but there are too many technological, economic and political uncertainties to count on it making a significant global difference. If people around the world can’t be cajoled — or frightened by apocalyptic scenarios — into cutting carbon emissions, then politicians need backup strategies.

One possibility, Dr. Pielke says, would be to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the future. He calculates that it could cost about the same, in the long run, as making drastic cuts in emissions today, and could be cheaper if the technology improves. It could also be a lot easier sell to the public.

Yet research into this strategy has received little financing in past budgets or the new stimulus package because it doesn’t jibe with the agenda of either side in the global-warming debate. Greens don’t want this sort of “technological fix”; their opponents don’t want to admit there’s anything to fix. And neither side’s advocates will compromise as long as they think that science will prove them right.

With Turbines, Alaska Is Frontier for Green Power

February 18, 2009

TOKSOOK BAY, Alaska — Beyond the fishing boats, the snug homes and the tanks of diesel fuel marking this Eskimo village on the Bering Sea, three huge wind turbines tower over the tundra. Their blades spin slowly in a breeze cold enough to freeze skin.

One of the nation’s harshest landscapes, it turns out, is becoming fertile ground for green power.

As interest in cleaning up power generation grows around the country, Alaska is fast becoming a testing ground for new technologies and an unlikely experiment in oil-state support for renewable energy. Alaskans once cast a wary eye on anything smacking of environmentalism, but today they are investing heavily in green power, not so much to reduce emissions as to save cash.

In remote villages like this one, where diesel to power generators is shipped by barge and can cost more than $5 a gallon in bulk, electricity from renewable sources like wind is already competitive with power made from fossil fuels. In urban areas along the state’s limited road system, large wind and hydroelectric projects are also becoming attractive.

Alaska produces more oil than any state except Texas, but most of it leaves the state. Small markets and high transportation costs have kept local fuel prices high. As oil prices spiked last year, the state’s coffers overflowed with oil tax revenue, but the rising cost of diesel and other fuels became a local crisis.

Gov. Sarah Palin and state lawmakers responded last year by pledging $300 million over five years in renewable energy grants to utilities, independent power producers or local governments. It is a substantial sum for a state with only 670,000 residents...full story here.

Op-Ed Columnist
Yes, They Could. So They Did.
February 15, 2009

New Delhi

So I am attending the Energy and Resources Institute climate conference in New Delhi, and during the afternoon session two young American women — along with one of their mothers — proposition me.

“Hey, Mr. Friedman,” they say, “would you like to take a little spin around New Delhi in our car?”

Oh, I say, I’ve heard that line before. Ah, they say, but you haven’t seen this car before. It’s a plug-in electric car that is also powered by rooftop solar panels — and the two young women, recent Yale grads, had just driven it all over India in a “climate caravan” to highlight the solutions to global warming being developed by Indian companies, communities, campuses and innovators, as well as to inspire others to take action.

They ask me if I want to drive, but I have visions of being stopped by the cops and ending up in a New Delhi jail. Not to worry, they tell me. Indian cops have been stopping them all across India. First, they ask to see driver’s licenses, then they inquire about how the green car’s solar roof manages to provide 10 percent of its mileage — and then they try to buy the car.

We head off down Panchsheel Marg, one of New Delhi’s main streets. The ladies want to show me something. The U.S. Embassy and the Chinese Embassy are both located on Panchsheel, directly across from each other. They asked me to check out the rooftops of each embassy. What do I notice? Let’s see ... The U.S. Embassy’s roof is loaded with antennae and listening gear. The Chinese Embassy’s roof is loaded with ... new Chinese-made solar hot-water heaters.

You couldn’t make this up.

But trying to do something about it was just one of many reasons my hosts, Caroline Howe, 23, a mechanical engineer on leave from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and Alexis Ringwald, a Fulbright scholar in India and now a solar entrepreneur, joined with Kartikeya Singh, who was starting the Indian Youth Climate Network, or IYCN, to connect young climate leaders in India, a country coming under increasing global pressure to manage its carbon footprint.

“India is full of climate innovators, so spread out across this huge country that many people don’t get to see that these solutions are working right now,” said Howe. “We wanted to find a way to bring people together around existing solutions to inspire more action and more innovation. There’s no time left to just talk about the problem.”

Howe and Ringwald thought the best way to do that might be a climate solutions road tour, using modified electric cars from India’s Reva Electric Car Company, whose C.E.O. Ringwald knew. They persuaded him to donate three of his cars and to retrofit them with longer-life batteries that could travel 90 miles on a single six-hour charge — and to lay on a solar roof that would extend them farther.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 5, they drove the cars on a 2,100-mile trip from Chennai to New Delhi, stopping in 15 cities and dozens of villages, training Indian students to start their own climate action programs and filming 20 videos of India’s top home-grown energy innovations. They also brought along a solar-powered band, plus a luggage truck that ran on plant oil extracted from jatropha and pongamia, plants locally grown on wasteland. A Bollywood dance group joined at different stops and a Czech who learned about their trip on YouTube hopped on with his truck that ran on vegetable-oil waste.

Deepa Gupta, 21, a co-founder of IYCN, told The Hindustan Times that the trip opened her eyes to just how many indigenous energy solutions were budding in India — “like organic farming in Andhra Pradesh, or using neem and garlic as pesticides, or the kind of recycling in slums, such as Dharavi. We saw things already in place, like the Gadhia solar plant in Valsad, Gujarat, where steam is used for cooking and you can feed almost 50,000 people in one go.” (See:

At Rajpipla, in Gujarat, when they stopped at a local prince’s palace to recharge their cars, they discovered that his business was cultivating worms and selling them as eco-friendly alternatives to chemical fertilizers.

I met Howe and Ringwald after a tiring day, but I have to admit that as soon as they started telling me their story it really made me smile. After a year of watching adults engage in devastating recklessness in the financial markets and depressing fecklessness in the global climate talks, it’s refreshing to know that the world keeps minting idealistic young people who are not waiting for governments to act, but are starting their own projects and driving innovation.

“Why did this tour happen?” asked Ringwald. “Why this mad, insane plan to travel across India in a caravan of solar electric cars and jatropha trucks with solar music, art, dance and a potent message for climate solutions? Well ... the world needs crazy ideas to change things, because the conventional way of thinking is not working anymore.”

White House Unbuttons Formal Dress Code 
January 29, 2009

WASHINGTON — The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”

Thus did a rule of the George W. Bush administration — coat and tie in the Oval Office at all times — fall by the wayside, only the first of many signs that a more informal culture is growing up in the White House under new management. Mr. Obama promised to bring change to Washington and he has — not just in substance, but in presidential style.

Although his presidency is barely a week old, some of Mr. Obama’s work habits are already becoming clear. He shows up at the Oval Office shortly before 9 in the morning, roughly two hours later than his early-to-bed, early-to-rise predecessor. Mr. Obama likes to have his workout — weights and cardio — first thing in the morning, at 6:45. (Mr. Bush slipped away to exercise midday.)

He reads several papers, eats breakfast with his family and helps pack his daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, off to school before making the 30-second commute downstairs — a definite perk for a man trying to balance work and family life. He eats dinner with his family, then often returns to work; aides have seen him in the Oval Office as late as 10 p.m., reading briefing papers for the next day.

“Even as he is sober about these challenges, I have never seen him happier,” Mr. Axelrod said. “The chance to be under the same roof with his kids, essentially to live over the store, to be able to see them whenever he wants, to wake up with them, have breakfast and dinner with them — that has made him a very happy man.”

In the West Wing, Mr. Obama is a bit of a wanderer. When Mr. Bush wanted to see a member of his staff, the aide was summoned to the Oval Office. But Mr. Obama tends to roam the halls; one day last week, he turned up in the office of his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, who was in the unfortunate position of having his feet up on the desk when the boss walked in.

“Wow, Gibbs,” the press secretary recalls the president saying. “Just got here and you already have your feet up.” Mr. Gibbs scrambled to stand up, surprising Mr. Obama, who is not yet accustomed to having people rise when he enters a room.

Under Mr. Bush, punctuality was a virtue. Meetings started early — the former president once locked Secretary of State Colin L. Powell out of the Cabinet Room when Mr. Powell showed up a few minutes late — and ended on time. In the Obama White House, meetings start on time and often finish late.

When the president invited Congressional leaders to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue last week to talk about his economic stimulus package, the session ran so long that Mr. Obama wound up apologizing to the lawmakers — even as he kept them talking, engaging them in the details of the legislation far more than was customary for Mr. Bush.

“He was concerned that he was keeping us,” said Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the Republican whip. “He said, ‘I know we need to get you all out of here at a certain time.’ But we continued the discussion. What are you going to say? It’s the president.”

If Mr. Obama’s clock is looser than Mr. Bush’s, so too are his sartorial standards. Over the weekend, Mr. Obama’s first in office, his aides did not quite know how to dress. Some showed up in jeans (another no-no under Mr. Bush), some in coats and ties.

So the president issued an informal edict for “business casual” on weekends — and set his own example. He showed up Saturday for a briefing with his chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, dressed in slacks and a gray sweater over a white buttoned-down shirt. Veterans of the Bush White House are shocked.

“I’ll never forget going to work on a Saturday morning, getting called down to the Oval Office because there was something he was mad about,” said Dan Bartlett, who was counselor to Mr. Bush. “I had on khakis and a buttoned-down shirt, and I had to stand by the door and get chewed out for about 15 minutes. He wouldn’t even let me cross the threshold.”

Mr. Obama has also brought a more relaxed sensibility to his public appearances. David Gergen, an adviser to both Republican and Democratic presidents, said Mr. Obama seemed to exude an “Aloha Zen,” a kind of comfortable calm that, Mr. Gergen said, reflects a man who “seems easygoing, not so full of himself.”

At the Capitol on Tuesday, Mr. Obama startled lawmakers by walking up to the microphones in a Senate corridor to talk to reporters, as if he were still a senator. Twice, during formal White House ceremonies, Mr. Obama called out to aides as television cameras rolled, as he did on Monday when the director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa P. Jackson, asked for a presidential pen.

“Hey, Lisa,” Mr. Obama called out to his staff secretary, Lisa Brown, “does she get this pen?”

Mr. Obama’s daily schedule seems flexible. Mr. Bush began each day, Monday through Saturday, with a top-secret intelligence briefing on security threats against the United States. Mr. Obama gets the “president’s daily brief” on Sundays as well, though unlike his predecessor, he does not necessarily put it first on his agenda.

Sometimes Mr. Obama’s economic briefing, a new addition to the presidential schedule, comes first. Its attendees vary depending on the day, aides said. On Tuesday, the newly sworn-in Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, joined Mr. Summers to talk about financial and credit markets. On Wednesday, Paul A. Volcker, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve and informal Obama adviser, was on hand to discuss regulatory reform.

Mr. Obama has also maintained the longstanding presidential tradition of weekly lunches with his vice president. For Mr. Obama, lunch generally means a cheeseburger, chicken or fish in his small dining room off the Oval Office. There is also a new addition to White House cuisine: the refrigerators are stocked with the president’s favorite organic brew, Honest Tea, in Mr. Obama’s preferred flavors of Black Forest Berry and Green Dragon.

If there is one thing Mr. Obama has not gotten around to changing, it is the Oval Office décor.

When Mr. Bush moved in, he exercised his presidential decorating prerogatives and asked his wife, Laura, to supervise the design of a new rug. Mr. Bush loved to regale visitors with the story of the rug, whose sunburst design, he liked to say, was intended to evoke a feeling of optimism.

The rug is still there, as are the presidential portraits Mr. Bush selected — one of Washington, one of Lincoln — and a collection of decorative green and white plates. During a meeting last week with retired military officials, before he signed an executive order shutting down the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Mr. Obama surveyed his new environs with a critical eye.

“He looked around,” said one of his guests, retired Rear Adm. John D. Hutson, “and said, ‘I’ve got to do something about these plates. I’m not really a plates kind of guy.’ ”

Gore Urges Action on Economy, Global Warming
Filed at 10:40 a.m. ET
January 28, 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former Vice President Al Gore is urging lawmakers not to let the economic crisis get in the way of addressing global warming.

Testifying Wednesday before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said lawmakers should pass the economic stimulus as a first step to bringing greenhouse gases under control.

Gore said ''decisive action'' also is needed on a bill to cap heat-trapping gases if the U.S. is to take a leading role in negotiations on a new international climate treaty later this year.

It was the first time Gore appeared before Congress since March 2007. Since then, the recession has deepened. A Democratic-controlled Congress and Democratic President have raised hopes for passage of a climate change bill.

Avery Point Professor Studies World Being Altered By Climate Change 
By Judy Benson 
Published on 1/25/2009 

Groton - Peter Auster explored the coral reefs off Bonaire island in the Netherlands Antilles for the first time in 1982, when he was in his mid-20s and at the start of his career as a marine scientist.  He's been returning with his scuba gear periodically ever since, both for his ongoing research and on his own time during vacations from his post at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus.

A quarter-century is a significant span in a person's career, but not in the gradual time frames in which complex organisms like corals and reef fishes have evolved and changed - at least it's not supposed to be. But over those years, the 52-year-old associate professor, whose research focuses on reef fishes, fish behavior and fisheries management and related areas, has witnessed a disturbing transformation of the Bonaire reefs.


”Last June when I went there, it was mostly dead coral, about 80 percent,” said Auster, showing photographs on his computer comparing the reef today with the one 25 years ago. “In 1982, there was 90 percent coral cover.”

In the earlier photo, the underwater world is lush with staghorn corals. The recent one shows a sea floor mostly barren except for a few pieces of brain coral. Various localized forces are likely contributing culprits in the dramatic change, from nearby coastal development and pollution to hurricanes and damage from fishing vessels. But increasingly at this reef and others in seas both tropical and temperate, a global phenomenon is also exacting its toll: climate change.

”Will they recover?” Auster asked, referring to the dead and degraded coral reefs worldwide, which are vital to the health of fish populations and other marine life.

Climate change, he said, “hasn't made the other problems I work with go away,” but over the last five years the effects of climate change are becoming more pronounced in the marine environments he studies.

”It's one big uncontrolled experiment,” he said.

The effects of climate change, caused mainly by carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and other industrial activities, are evident in oceans and marine ecosystems worldwide in measurable ways that can be more obvious than changes on land.

In a 2008 report on the state of coral reefs, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration notes that the poor health of many reefs is tied to the larger changes in the ocean and coastal environments from global warming.

In the warming planet, sea levels and water temperatures are rising, as glaciers melt and warmer water expands. Corals, notes Auster, live at the edge of their tolerance levels for water depth - they need to be close enough to the surface for sufficient sunlight to penetrate - and temperature. When conditions aren't right, corals are more susceptible to diseases such as coral bleaching, which threatens reef survival.

”Bleaching events have become more frequent and longer,” said Auster.

As the NOAA report notes, the very chemistry of the world's oceans has been altered, and how the marine life that depends on the sea is being affected isn't fully known. Some creatures will thrive in the new environment, but many more, particularly more complex species, may not be able to adapt quickly enough.

Much of the carbon dioxide released into the air since the start of the Industrial Revolution has ended up in the sea. There, it mixes with water and forms carbonic acid. Today ocean surface water is estimated to be 30 percent more acidic than 250 years ago, according to a November report by Oceana, an international ocean conservation group, and is expected to be 100 percent more acidic by the end of the century if current trends continue.

This, in turn, threatens coral growth.

”Corals…” the NOAA report notes, “are able to calcify their skeletal structures from sea water because of particular chemical properties. Continued increases in CO2 … may prevent coral reef growth altogether.” Acidification is expected to have a similar effect on shellfish.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N. scientists' group that synthesizes research from throughout the world, in a 2007 report called coral reefs among the “most vulnerable” of all the world's ecosystems due to global warming. Salt marshes and mangroves, also vital to fish and other marine life, are others.

”The oceans are acidifying faster than we had predicted, and there are widespread effects in the marine environment,” said Auster.

When he researches issues specific to fish and fisheries, he is also seeing the effects of climate change in combination with other factors like overfishing and pollution.

Just offshore from the Avery Point campus in Long Island Sound, for example, data from trawl surveys shows the mix of fish species is changing, Auster notes. Spotted hake and other species more prevalent in southern waters are increasing, while bluefish and others that favor colder waters are declining.

The 2007 report from the I.P.C.C., the group that won the Nobel Peace Prize that year for its climate change research, said, “local extinctions of particular fish are expected …” particularly in species like salmon and sturgeon that spend parts of their lives in fresh and salt water. Both are found in the Sound.

Auster, who grew up in Middletown and now lives in Chester, took up scuba diving as a teenager. For a time he thought about becoming an astronaut, but instead settled on a career as a marine scientist.

”I wanted to study life,” he said, “and there's life all around you in the ocean.”

The condition of the ecosystems he has spent his career studying does get discouraging at times, he admits, and the threats posed by climate change at times seem unstoppable.

”But it's not hopeless,” he said.

His work through Avery Point and the other marine organizations he is part of may increase understanding of how corals and fishes are being affected by climate change. But ultimately, he said, scientists won't be the ones driving any response. Auster is a member of international fisheries management groups, is on the advisory council of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the Massachusetts coast and in the midst of a three-year research project there, and is the research director of the National Undersea Research Center at Avery Point.

”It's easy to just say we need more studies,” he said. “But at this point, we know we're in trouble. We know enough” to know what's needed: prompt and widespread actions to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change already being seen.

”Our response will be based on our values and ethics and the desire for the future we want to see,” he said. “We need the political and social will to do it. We know the direction we need to move.”


Town budget gap widens

Greenwich TIME
By Neil Vigdor, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/14/2008 02:34:07 AM EST


A projected $10.5 million gap in the town budget is widening to proportions that officials have never seen before in what has arguably been Connecticut's most prosperous town.

"We went through how big the problem could be. It's $31 million over the next 18 months," said Roland Gieger, the town's budget director.

Budget officials are predicting an $8.5 million shortfall in revenues from conveyance tax receipts, the sale of building permits and bank interest in the current fiscal year, which has six months to go, and a $6 million shortfall in 2008-09.  That comes on top of the anticipated $10.5 million gap, which has been bandied about since early this fall and has been attributed to rising personnel costs and shrinking revenues.

The architects of the town's projected $364 million budget will also have to make up another $6 million, which they had hoped to have left over in the General Fund balance at the end of the current fiscal year to help pare down the tax rate and pay for unanticipated expenses.  Property owners could face a spike in property taxes in excess of the customary 2 to 4 percent annual increase sought by the town if the gap isn't closed, town officials said.

"It's a significant fiscal challenge and one that requires making difficult decisions, which I'm certainly ready to do. It's a matter of prioritization," First Selectman Peter Tesei said.

In a Nov. 26 memo to municipal department heads and the town's appointing authorities, Tesei called for an across-the-board 10 percent minimum reduction in non-salary town expenditures, a clamp-down on employee travel and a hiring freeze for all positions but a few positions in police, fire and other essential areas. Tesei also wants to limit overtime, saying it should be reserved for when public safety warrants it or a potential liability emerges. All overtime requests are to be vetted by Tesei's office.

"We're looking at everything," Tesei said.

Some Representative Town Meeting members want the town to go a step further and put the brakes on an estimated $49.2 million in capital projects for which the money has been appropriated but not yet spent.  Among the options being considered by the town's budget architects is to pare down capital expenditures in the 2009-10 budget, taxing for only $30 million worth of projects instead of the planned $37 million, Gieger said.

The town, he said, is also considering forgoing a discretionary contribution to the town's post-employment benefits fund, which Gieger said pays the health care of municipal retirees and was set to receive $2 million in taxpayer money in 2009-10.

In addition to those measures, Gieger said the town is striving to save $7.9 million in the current fiscal year's budget through various efficiencies and reduce its operating expenses by $14.1 million when the new budget takes effect on July 1, 2009.

Officials based their projections on actual expenditures from the previous fiscal year rather than what was budgeted, which Gieger said turned out to be more than was needed to deliver services.  Michael Mason, chairman of the Board of Estimate and Taxation's Budget Committee, said Greenwich is not immune from the current economic recession gripping the nation.

"Everybody's being very cautious. We all know these are difficult economic times," Mason said.

Mason expressed optimism that budget architects would be able to close the gap.

"I think we have a plan," he said. "I think we're on our way. We're watching revenues. We're running models. The real key to success is how much can we save and not spend within the current fiscal year."

One of the areas that Mason said budget officials are watching closely this winter is the amount of snowfall, which in recent years has depleted the town's snow removal budget and required additional appropriations from the General Fund balance.

"Obviously, we're sitting here hoping we don't have a lot of snow this winter," Mason said. "I don't want to rely on the Farmer's Almanac. I would rather just cross my fingers."

Bangladesh Pollution, Told in Colors and Smells
July 14, 2013

SAVAR, Bangladesh — On the worst days, the toxic stench wafting through the Genda Government Primary School is almost suffocating. Teachers struggle to concentrate, as if they were choking on air. Students often become lightheaded and dizzy. A few boys fainted in late April. Another retched in class.

The odor rises off the polluted canal — behind the schoolhouse — where nearby factories dump their wastewater. Most of the factories are garment operations, textile mills and dyeing plants in the supply chain that exports clothing to Europe and the United States. Students can see what colors are in fashion by looking at the canal.

“Sometimes it is red,” said Tamanna Afrous, the school’s English teacher. “Or gray. Sometimes it is blue. It depends on the colors they are using in the factories.”

Nearly three months ago, the Rana Plaza factory building collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people, in a disaster that exposed the risks in the low-cost formula that has made Bangladesh the world’s second-leading clothing exporter, after China, and a favorite of companies like Walmart, J. C. Penney and H & M. That formula depends on paying the lowest wages in the world and, at some factories, spending a minimum on work conditions and safety.

But it also often means ignoring costly environmental regulations. Bangladesh’s garment and textile industries have contributed heavily to what experts describe as a water pollution disaster, especially in the large industrial areas of Dhaka, the capital. Many rice paddies are now inundated with toxic wastewater. Fish stocks are dying. And many smaller waterways are being filled with sand and garbage, as developers sell off plots for factories or housing.

Environmental damage usually trails rapid industrialization in developing countries. But Bangladesh is already one of the world’s most environmentally fragile places, densely populated yet braided by river systems, with a labyrinth of low-lying wetlands leading to the Bay of Bengal. Even as pollution threatens agriculture and public health, Bangladesh is acutely vulnerable to climate change, as rising sea levels and changing weather patterns could displace millions of people and sharply reduce crop yields.

Here in Savar, an industrial suburb of Dhaka and the site of the collapsed Rana Plaza building, some factories treat their wastewater, but many do not have treatment plants or chose not to operate them to save on utility costs. Many of Savar’s canals or wetlands are now effectively retention ponds of untreated industrial waste.

“Look, it’s not only in Savar,” said Mohammed Abdul Kader, who has been Savar’s mayor since his predecessor was suspended in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster. “The whole country is suffering from pollution. In Savar, we have lots of coconut trees, but they don’t produce coconuts anymore. Industrial pollution is damaging our fish stocks, our fruit produce, our vegetables.”

Bangladesh has laws to protect the environment, a national environment ministry and new special courts for environmental cases. Yet pollution is rising, not falling, experts say, largely because of the political and economic power of industry.

Tanneries and pharmaceutical plants are part of the problem, but textile and garment factories, a mainstay of the economy and a crucial source of employment, have the most clout. When the environment ministry appointed a tough-minded official who levied fines against textile and dyeing factories, complaining owners eventually forced his transfer.

“Nobody in the country, at least at the government level, is thinking about sustainable development,” said Rizwana Hasan, a prominent environmental lawyer. “All of the natural resources have been severely degraded and depleted.”

Less than two miles from the site of Rana Plaza, the Genda primary school has a student body made up mostly of the children of garment workers. Golam Rabbi, 11, who is the top-ranked student in the third grade there, lives with his mother and two younger brothers in a single room. The boys use price tags collected from factory floors as makeshift playing cards.

“The school always smells,” Golam said. “Sometimes we can’t even eat there. It is making some kids sick. Sometimes my head spins. It is hard to concentrate.”

His family is still struggling to recover from the Rana Plaza collapse. His father, a security guard, was killed in the disaster, and his mother is trying to support her sons and keep the two oldest in school. The father had left school for work — as had the mother — and both parents believed education could provide their sons a better life.

“His main goal was to get his children educated,” Golam’s mother, Hasina Begum, said of her husband.

But the pollution has made it hard. Golam has fainted from the smell. “He has told me several times that he doesn’t want to study at the school,” his mother said. “When it is very hot, and the breeze brings in the bad smell, he can’t breathe properly. I tried to reassure him, saying that people are holding rallies. I don’t know why the pollution is still continuing, why they can’t stop it.”

Factories surround the school: within 300 yards are two garment factories, two dyeing operations, a textile mill, a brick factory and a pharmaceutical plant. At least 10 dyeing plants can be found in a slightly larger radius. An underground drainage channel dumps wastewater through a pipe into the canal behind the school.

Mohammed Abdul Ali, the school’s headmaster, said he had approached local factory owners, as well as Savar officials, trying to get the drainage pipe moved. Mothers of children at the school, including Golam’s mother, have held awareness workshops and rallies. Local environmentalists have also campaigned.

“We’ve never seen the owners take our appeals seriously,” Mr. Ali said. “Everything is going on as usual. They have a good relationship with the politicians. That is why they don’t care.”

On a recent rainy afternoon, the smell was overpowering as the school’s fifth graders gathered in a classroom. Asked how many had parents working in garment factories, 23 of the 34 students in the room raised their hands.

“Sometimes my head is spinning,” one student said of the smell. “Sometimes we feel like we need to vomit,” another said.

Barely 100 yards away, behind a battered metal gate, the Surma Garments factory was dyeing fabric in a shade of dark purple. Mahadi Hasan, a manager, offered a tour of the Effluent Treatment Plant, where wastewater is treated with chemicals in a series of concrete tubs. He called for a worker to bring beakers with “before” and “after” samples — only to be handed an “after” sample in which the water was light purple.

Asked about pollution at the nearby school, Mr. Hasan said his wastewater flowed in the opposite direction, though that would mean it flowed uphill. “There are some other factories around here,” he said. “The water might be from them.”

In February, environmental regulators fined Surma Garments and four other factories for illegally dumping pollution. Two years earlier, another factory near the school, Anlima Yarn Dyeing, was fined for dumping untreated waste, even though it had a functioning effluent treatment plant. Local news accounts said that Anlima Yarn had been operating without an environmental clearance certificate for 23 years.

The inspections were part of a highly publicized antipollution enforcement campaign led by Munir Chowdhury, a senior official in the environment ministry. Mr. Chowdhury raided factories, often at night, finding that many were saving money by dumping waste without treating it. He imposed repeated fines until he was transferred this year to run the state dairy operation.

Mr. Kader, the acting mayor of Savar, said there was only so much a single official could do. “You should understand the reality in Bangladesh,” he said. “These people who are setting up industries and factories here are much more powerful than me. When a government minister calls me and tells me to give permission to someone to set up a factory in Savar, I can’t refuse.”

For global brands that buy clothing from Bangladeshi factories, pollution rarely gets the same attention as workplace conditions or fire safety. H &M has sponsored some environmental programs, but Bangladeshi environmentalists say global buyers have done far too little.

“The buyers totally understand the conditions of Bangladesh and they take advantage of it,” said Ms. Hasan, the environmental lawyer.

Julfikar Ali Manik contributed reporting.

Bangladeshis Rally Against Climate Change
Filed at 10:33 a.m. ET
November 27, 2008

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) -- Some 500 women rallied in Bangladesh's capital on Thursday, demanding richer nations cut their greenhouse gas emissions and compensate the impoverished countries that experts believe will be hardest hit by the impacts of climate change.

The women, mostly rural poor, wore masks mocking leaders from wealthy nations such as France, Britain and the United States, and marched through Dhaka University's campus carrying banners that read ''Cut emissions, save poor nations'' and ''Stop harming, start helping.''

Organizers from the Campaign for Sustainable Rural Livelihood, an Oxfam-funded network of domestic labor and rights groups, said the rally was timed to send a message to delegates who will gather Dec. 1 in Poznan, Poland for a United Nations conference on climate change.

''We are here with a message that we are suffering, and our sufferings will increase manifold if rich countries do not act aggressively,'' said Ahsan Uddin Ahmed, a Bangladeshi expert on climate change.

''Rich nations like the U.S. and emerging countries such as China and India must act properly,'' he said. ''We need development but not at the cost of our future.''

Bangladesh, a densely populated nation of 150 million people, suffers annual floods, frequent cyclones and increasing salinity in its coastal regions.

Experts say more frequent flooding due to global warming could eventually put as much as one-third of Bangladesh's land mass permanently under water.

Schwarzenegger Opens Climate Change Summit
November 18, 2008
Filed at 2:40 p.m. ET

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has opened his climate change summit in Beverly Hills, Calif., telling attendees from 19 other countries they can protect both the environment and their economies.

Schwarzenegger's message was reinforced by President-elect Barack Obama, who spoke to participants in a taped video.

Obama said the U.S. economy would continue to weaken if climate change and dependence on foreign oil are left unaddressed.

The two-day summit has drawn more than 800 scientists, environmentalists, government and industry officials to discuss strategies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Schwarzenegger, a Republican, has gained notoriety for his global warming efforts in California. He hopes the summit will influence negotiations over a new global climate treaty during a U.N. gathering in Poland next month.

4.2 Million 'Green' Jobs Possible
Hartford Courant
By H. JOSEF HEBERT | Associated Press
October 6, 2008

A major shift to renewable energy and efficiency is expected to produce 4.2 million new environmentally friendly "green" jobs during the next three decades, according to a study commissioned by the nation's mayors.

The study, released last week by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, says that about 750,000 people work today in what can be considered green jobs — from scientists and engineers researching alternative fuels to makers of wind turbines and more energy-efficient products.

But that's less than one half of 1 percent of total employment. By 2038, another 4.2 million green jobs are expected to be added, accounting for 10 percent of new job growth during the next 30 years, according to the report by Global Insight Inc.

"It could be the fastest-growing segment of the United States economy over the next several decades and dramatically increase its share of total employment," said the report, which The Associated Press obtained.  However, the study cautioned, such job growth won't be realized without an aggressive shift away from traditional fossil fuels toward alternative energy and a significant improvement in energy efficiency.

For example, it assumes that by 2038 alternative energy will account for 40 percent of electricity production, with half of that coming from wind and solar; widespread retrofitting of buildings to achieve a 35 percent reduction in electricity use; and 30 percent of motor fuels coming from ethanol or biodiesel.

Alternative energy, such as wind, geothermal, biomass and solar, currently accounts for less than 3 percent of electricity generation, and nonfossil sources, such as ethanol and biodiesel, account for about 5 percent of all motor fuels, the report notes.

Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, the conference's president, said the report makes "a very compelling economic argument for investing in the green economy and that we're going to get a huge return for it."

"These are things we have to do," Diaz said in a telephone interview, adding that "Washington needs to get on the train."

Both presidential candidates have cited the jobs potential if the country embraces alternative energy and efficiency.

Democratic nominee Barack Obama predicts that investments in a "clean energy economy" during the next 10 years "will help the private sector create 5 million new green jobs" — a more ambitious projection than outlined by the study provided to the mayors.

GOP rival John McCain's energy blueprint makes no specific job growth forecast, but declares the development of green jobs and green technology "vital to our economic future."

The report predicts that the biggest job gain will be from the increased use of alternative transportation fuels, with 1.5 million additional jobs, followed by the renewable power generating sector, with 1.2 million new jobs.

Another 81,000 jobs will be generated by industries related to making homes and commercial buildings more energy-efficient, the study said.

And it predicted an additional 1.4 million green jobs related to engineering, research, consulting and legal work.

"We're trying to show the size of the green jobs economy," assuming policy shifts toward less dependence on fossil fuels, said Jim Diffley of Global Insight.

Ting-Li Wang, NYTIMES

Weather History Offers Insight Into Global Warming

Published: September 15, 2008
NEW PALTZ, N.Y. — It is probably a good thing that the Mohonk Mountain House, the 19th-century resort, was built on Shawangunk conglomerate, a concrete-hard quartz rock. Otherwise, the path to the National Weather Service’s cooperative station here surely would have turned to dust by now.

Every day for the last 112 years, people have trekked up the same gray outcropping to dutifully record temperatures and weather conditions. In the process, they have compiled a remarkable data collection that has become a climatological treasure chest.

The problems that often haunt other weather records — the station is moved, buildings are constructed nearby or observers record data inconsistently — have not arisen here because so much of this place has been frozen in time. The weather has been taken in exactly the same place, in precisely the same way, by just a handful of the same dedicated people since Grover Cleveland was president.

For much of that time, those same weather observers have also made detailed records about recurring natural events, like the appearance of the first spring peeper or the first witch hazel bush to bud in the fall. Together, these two sets of data, meticulously collected in the same area, are beginning to offer up intriguing indicators about climate change — not about what is causing it but rather how it affects the lives of animals, plants, insects and birds.

It all starts with the daily ritual of “doing the weather,” which is what people at Mohonk House call the process of recording temperatures. One day in late summer, it was the turn of a gentle 61-year-old botanist turned naturalist named Paul C. Huth. As he has done most days for the last 34 years, around 4 p.m. Mr. Huth scrambled up the conglomerate outcropping in the shadow of Mohonk House, a National Historic Landmark about 90 miles north of New York City that has retained its 19th-century sensibility. Signs along the resort’s roads plead: “Slowly and Quietly Please.”

Mr. Huth opened the weather station, a louvered box about the size of a suitcase, and leaned in. He checked the high and low temperatures of the day on a pair of official Weather Service thermometers and then manually reset them. Besides the thermometers, the box contained a small flashlight, a can of lubricating oil and a plastic magnifying glass. Those thermometers can be hard to read in the rain.

If the procedure seems old-fashioned, that is just as it is intended. The temperatures that Mr. Huth recorded that day were the 41,152nd daily readings at this station, each taken exactly the same way. “Sometimes it feels like I’ve done most of them myself,” said Mr. Huth, who is one of only five people to have served as official weather observer at this station since the first reading was taken on Jan. 1, 1896.

That extremely limited number of observers greatly enhances the reliability, and therefore the value, of the data. Other weather stations have operated longer, but few match Mohonk’s consistency and reliability. “The quality of their observations is second to none on a number of counts,” said Raymond G. O’Keefe, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Albany. “They’re very precise, they keep great records and they’ve done it for a very long time.”

Mohonk’s data stands apart from that of most other cooperative weather observers in other respects as well. The station has never been moved, and the resort, along with the area immediately surrounding the box, has hardly changed over time. Rain and snow are measured in the original brass rain gauge issued in 1896 by what was then known as the United States Weather Bureau. Mr. Huth also checks the temperature and pH of Mohonk Lake daily, and he measures the level of the lake according to its distance from the top of an iron bar that was bolted to the Shawangunk conglomerate in 1896.

The record shows that on this ridge in the Shawangunk Mountains, about 20 miles south of the better-known Catskills, the average annual temperature has risen 2.7 degrees in 112 years. Of the top 10 warmest years in that time, 7 have come since 1990. Both annual precipitation and annual snowfall have increased, and the growing season has lengthened by 10 days.

But what makes the data truly singular is how it parallels a vast collection of phenological observations taken at this same place, and by many of the same observers, since 1925.

Phenology is the science of natural occurrences, yearly events like the first snow, the first blooming of hepatica and the arrival of the first whippoorwill. Keeping diaries of such occurrences was a hobby of counts and lords in Europe, and there are records in Kyoto, Japan, of the flowering of cherry blossom trees dating back 900 years. Among the most notable American phenological records were those kept by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello and Henry David Thoreau at Walden Pond.

Today, phenology is recognized as an important, even critical, approach to understanding climate change. The National Phenology Network, with financing from the National Science Foundation and other agencies, has started an field campaign, called Project BudBurst (, in which volunteers record the way 500 native plants are responding to climate change.

The phenology records at Mohonk House are, in many ways, a model for such observations. They were compiled, in large measure, by Mr. Huth and the naturalist he succeeded, Daniel Smiley Jr. Mr. Smiley, who died in 1989, was a beloved descendant of the two Quaker brothers who founded Mohonk House in 1869. He dedicated much of his life to keeping lists of everything he saw and heard on the mountain, collecting whatever was of interest to him and labeling it carefully for future use.

Mr. Smiley kept his phenology records as meticulously as he “did the weather” for more than 50 years, for which he earned the National Weather Service’s highest award, named for Thomas Jefferson.

He walked the extensive grounds of the resort making notes about every bird call he heard, every animal he saw, every budding flower and flowering tree. Back in his office, he transcribed those notes onto 3-by-5 cards (many early ones were written on the reverse side of the hotel’s old menu cards). Over time, he amassed more than 14,500 cards with notations like this one, from March 28, 1929, filed under “partridge”: “Near Duck Hawk ledge on Sky Top saw one ‘treading’ another, with great commotion down in a brush pile in a crevice, while a third looked on. Too dark for a picture.”

In 1978, the Smiley family carved out 6,500 of its acres around the hotel to form the Mohonk Preserve, the largest nonprofit nature preserve in New York State. In 1980, the preserve created a research center that was named for Mr. Smiley after he died in 1989. Mr. Smiley was an old-school amateur naturalist, but his observations have proved to be solid scientific evidence. For instance, when the hotel’s chlorination system started acting up in 1931, he began taking water temperature and acidity readings. He was surprised to find that the water was unusually acidic, a pH of around 4.5, but he did not know why and just filed away his notes. Jump ahead 40 years to the early 1970s, when acid rain became a concern. Mr. Smiley dug up his old notes and sent them to the Environmental Defense Fund, which used the data as a baseline for extended studies of acid rain.

Similarly, in the 1950s Mr. Smiley found on his walks that the use of DDT to control gypsy moths was killing all kinds of insects, and that the peregrine falcon had nearly disappeared from the Shawangunks. He ordered all spraying stopped on Mohonk land. Of course, DDT spraying was later banned.

Last year, Benjamin I. Cook, a climate modeler and post-doctoral fellow at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and his father, Edward R. Cook, a tree-ring specialist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who met Mr. Smiley in 1971 when he was a military policeman at West Point, published a study in The International Journal of Climatology. They analyzed Mohonk House data to determine how some overwintering birds, insects, animals and 19 species of plants had changed their habits in accord with changes in temperature.

The results showed how sensitive species can be to climate change, even though the climate data itself is mixed. Benjamin Cook said hepatica, bloodroot and red berried elder tended to show the strongest trends toward earlier flowering. And despite a general warming trend, there was no significant increase in the length of the frost-free season. Nonetheless, there were significantly more days without frost.

“This is more than just a normal January thaw,” Mr. Cook said. The increase in warmer days in winter sends false signals to plants and animals whose seasonal changes can be set off by the temporary warmth.

Intrigued by that initial dip into Mr. Smiley’s data, Mr. Cook next intends to look at migrating birds. Mr. Smiley observed that by the early 1980s many migrating species were arriving about a week earlier than they did in the 1920s, and many American robins had stopped migrating altogether.

As a climate modeler, Mr. Cook said he was used to having to correct for inconsistencies in weather records and biases in phenological observations. But he said the Mohonk records were so consistently reliable that there was little need for corrections.

“It was a kind of perfect storm of the Smiley family, with this strong ethos about the land and land preservation, and Dan Smiley himself, with that same ethos but a scientific mind,” Mr. Cook said. “We just happened to be in the right place at the right time. We were all just incredibly lucky.”

Defrost cycle
Greenwich TIME
By Colin Gustafson, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 08/12/2008 02:40:44 AM EDT

Cos Cob resident Luc Hardy, 52, and his daughter, Ainhoa, 14, could hardly believe what they were witnessing when they stumbled across a gaping, seawater-filled fissure in the snowy terrain of the Canadian Arctic last month.

The two had spent the afternoon of July 22 on an educational group-hiking expedition across the "Ward Hunt" ice shelf in northern Canada when they saw a crack in the ice and a huge chunk drifting away from the main shelf.

"The ice had split apart completely," said Hardy, a self-employed venture capitalist who organized the trip. Until that moment, the ice fissure had been viewed only in satellite photos by scientists studying global warming, he added.

Now, they were seeing it "for the first time, first-hand."

The discovery was the highlight of a four-week trip that brought a group of intrepid young travelers and grown-up scientists from across the globe to the Arctic wilderness of Canada to observe the impact of climate change.

"We want to teach the younger generation about this, so they, hopefully, can solve the mess that some of us adults have created," Hardy said.

The expedition was part of the second annual "The Young Ambassadors of the Arctic," a youth-education program that raises money for Green Cross International, a non-profit environmental group founded by Mikhail Gorbachev. The program, which Hardy co-founded, this year received $300,000 in sponsorship from diverse groups, such as the Reed Smith law firm, Hewlett Packard and clothing supplier Napapijr.

In summer 2007, the program brought a smaller group to Greenland to learn about biodiversity and to study the impact of global warming on bird migration. This year, a larger group of about 16 people ventured back into the Arctic - this time via Canada - to observe the impact of global warming on the 3,000-year-old Arctic glaciers and ice shelves, many of which are now splitting apart.

When the explorers stumbled across the cracked ice in Ward Hunt last month, they'd been shooting photographs and recording the geographical coordinates of ice formations with the Canadian scientist, Derek Mueller, who first discovered the ice fissures in 2002.

"This ice has become destabilized with cracks over the past six years, and recent open-water conditions (on) the ice shelf have facilitated the latest break off," Mueller said. "The group's observations will help me place exactly when" the split occurred.

In addition to trekking across Ward Hunt, the young travelers - who hailed from Los Angeles, France, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Canada and Greenwich - also explored such far-flung locales as Iqaluit in Ottawa, Canada.

There they spent several days rafting up the Soper River before arriving in a remote Inuit village. "That was the most memorable part for me," Ainhoa recalled, "seeing them singing and dancing, and just interacting with a different culture."

The travelers also flew to Resolute Bay, in northern Canada, where members of the Canadian Coast Guard whisked them in black helicopters across the snow-covered Arctic waters so they could enjoy aerial views of the glaciers.

Hardy plans to bring a new group to the Russian Arctic next year to study geopolitics and learn about the impact of oil pollution on the environment. He's currently compiling photos and video footage for a book and documentary about the group's travels this summer and, in September, will travel to Moscow to present his work to Gorbachev in hopes of gaining his support for another trip.

The Winning Hand
Published: August 5, 2008

Sometimes the most logical, most obvious solutions are the most difficult to see.

While the presidential campaign was mired in the egregious and the trivial last week, there was a hearing in Washington that addressed what should be a critical component of the nation’s energy strategy. It got very little attention.

Put aside for a moment all the talk about alternative fuels. They are no doubt important and the wave of the future. But the fastest, cheapest, easiest and cleanest step toward a sane energy environment — a step available to all of us immediately — is the powerful combination of efficiency and conservation.

That was the message delivered again and again at a hearing of the Joint Economic Committee that carried the title, “Efficiency: The Hidden Secret to Solving Our Energy Crisis.”

Two political leaders who are no longer very fashionable were on to this long ago — former Gov. Jerry Brown of California (derided as “Governor Moonbeam”) and former President Jimmy Carter, who presciently said of the energy crisis in 1977: “With the exception of preventing war, this is the greatest challenge our country will face during our lifetime.”

It may be hard to believe, but largely because of far-reaching efficiency and conservation measures imposed by Mr. Brown’s administration, California is now among the lowest of all the states in the per capita consumption of energy. If you could take automobiles out of the picture, it would have the lowest per capita consumption of any state.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, noted that California’s extraordinary progress in this area over the past three decades was set in motion during Mr. Brown’s tenure when the state established building standards that required greater efficiency with regard to heating and cooling. Utilities were also required to operate more efficiently. And the state, to the extent that it legally could, required appliances sold in California to be more efficient.

“One of the good things that came out of the oil shock of the ’70s was the dramatic push for energy conservation,” said Senator Schumer. “Why don’t we do more of that now?”

It’s not widely understood how profound a change in overall energy consumption could be realized from a big-time, coordinated efficiency and conservation effort. We don’t hear enough about this because it’s not sexy. It is not something that has captured the public’s imagination.

In addition to the obvious need for more fuel-efficient vehicles, we should be demanding more efficiencies from utilities across the country; we should be requiring (as Senator Schumer has been pointing out) that states revamp their commercial and building codes; and we should be trying to weatherize homes from one coast to the other, including the homes of families without enough money to make such improvements themselves.

And, of course, there are the everyday good energy deeds that would help make a world of difference: car-pooling; taking public transportation when possible; using more efficient lighting; dropping the thermostat a couple of degrees; buying more efficient appliances; unplugging appliances that aren’t in use, and so on.

Dan Reicher, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Energy, told the Schumer panel that increased energy efficiency was “the real low-hanging fruit in our economy.” His words echoed those of Al Gore, who described a commitment to efficiency and conservation as “the best investment we can make.”

Mr. Reicher, now the director for climate change and energy initiatives at Google, said, “From cars and homes to factories and offices, we know how to cost-effectively deliver vast quantities of energy savings today.”

He cited estimates suggesting that an additional global investment in “efficiency opportunities” of $170 billion annually over the next 13 years “would be sufficient to cut projected global demand by at least half.”

Combining the development of alternative fuels with a real efficiency and conservation effort is the winning hand in the global energy crisis.

Because of the high price of oil, people in many parts of the country are already frightened, in the heat of summer, about their winter heating bills. Families are worried about having to choose between mortgage payments and fuel bills, or fuel bills and prescription medicine.

The Senate considered but was unable to pass a measure that would have substantially increased financing for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. It was a very bad sign. If the government can’t get that done in the current atmosphere, it hardly seems likely that it could move to an even more important step: finding a way to get the homes of these cash-strapped families properly weatherized so that they use substantially less fuel over the course of each winter.

Energy efficiency and conservation. We know what we should be doing. What we don’t have is the leadership, the common sense or the will to get it done.

The Iceman Cometh
Published: August 3, 2008

Greenland Ice Sheet,  77 degrees 45 minutes N. latitude, 51 degrees 6 minutes W. longitude - Jorgen Peder Steffensen made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: “If you come to Copenhagen, I will show you a Christmas snow — a real Christmas snow, the snow that fell between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D.”

Now that’s an offer you don’t get every day! But then I don’t go to the Arctic Circle every day. “I can also show you a sample of the very last snow that fell right at the end of the last ice age, which was 11,700 years ago,” said Steffensen. Or, he asked me, “How would you like to see the air samples that contain the sulfuric traces of the Mount Vesuvius volcanic eruption” that buried Pompeii in A.D. 79?

Steffensen is an ice specialist and curator of the world’s most comprehensive collection of ice core samples, a kind of atmospheric DNA drilled out of the glaciers of Greenland and now preserved in refrigerated vaults in the Danish capital. The more and deeper scientists can drill the ice, the better the picture they can give of the climate in previous eras — and therefore the more we will understand about climate change.

Each layer of ice contains water and air bubbles that were trapped in the snow, which, when analyzed by expert scientists, reveal in great detail the temperature, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the amount and origins of volcanic dust, and even the amount of sea salt in the air and therefore how close the glacier was to the ocean.

Imagine for a moment a freezer filled with such revealing ice cubes. Each ice cube represents one year’s atmospheric data beginning 150,000 years ago, which is how far back the current Greenland icecap dates. Well, Steffensen, his wife, Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, both of the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute of the University of Copenhagen, and a team of international experts are assembling precisely that kind of freezer from ice cores drilled here in the far north of Greenland in the Arctic Circle.

I traveled to their newest camp with a group of experts led by Denmark’s minister of climate and energy, Connie Hedegaard, and including Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which shared last year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore. We flew in on a U.S. Air Force National Guard C-130, which landed on skis — not wheels — since the landing strip was just a plowed strip of ice and snow.

This is surely one of the most remarkable and isolated research stations in the world. Everywhere you look, you see a perfectly flat expanse of snow and ice stretching to the horizon. In fact, you can see so far in every direction that it feels as though you can see the curvature of the earth. The camp consists of a heated geodesic dome where the scientists eat, a dozen barely heated tents where they (and guests) sleep in insulated sleeping bags and an underground research laboratory, carved out of the ice, where they are installing the drill and ice lab equipment. Over the next three “summers,” they will unearth ice core samples all the way down to Greenland’s bedrock — roughly 1.5 miles, or the equivalent of 150,000 years of accumulated ice layers.

Their objective is to do something never done before: project a complete picture of the Greenland climate, from the ice age that lasted from 200,000 to 130,000 years ago, through the warming period known as the Eemian that lasted from 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, through the last ice age from 115,000 to 11,703 years ago, right up to the present warming period we’ve been in since. (Remember: the Earth is usually an ice ball; the warm interglacial periods are the exceptions.)

Their last drilling project here, which was completed in 2004, focused on the layers 14,500 to 11,000 years ago. That project is already causing a stir in the climate community. In an article just published in the journal Science Express, Dahl-Jensen’s team wrote about how it had discovered from the ice cores that the atmospheric circulation in the Northern Hemisphere over Greenland “changed abruptly” just as the last ice age ended around 11,700 years ago.

It seems to have been driven by a sudden change in monsoons in the tropics. The change was so abrupt that it warmed the Northern Hemisphere over Greenland by 10 degrees Celsius in just 50 years — a dramatic increase.

“It shows that our climate system has the ability to make very abrupt changes all by itself,” said Dahl-Jensen.

Some climate-change deniers would say that this proves that mankind is not important in changing the climate. Climate change experts, like Dahl-Jensen, say it’s not so simple: The climate is always changing, sometimes very abruptly, so the last thing that mankind should be doing is adding its own forcing actions — like pumping unprecedented amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Because you never know — you never know — what will tip the balance and send us hurdling into another abrupt change ... and into another era.

Greenland Losing Ice, With or Without Lubrication
By Andrew C. Revkin
July 14, 2008,  9:01 am

After the journal Science published a paper earlier this month concluding that summertime gushers of meltwater percolating to the base of Greenland’s ice sheet didn’t appear to speed the seaward flow of ice, one result was a burst of excited comments from bloggers and others asserting that the impacts of global warming have been hyped.

Roderik S. W. van de Wal, the lead author of the Science paper, sent me a comment he prepared after the hubbub that he said is aimed at correcting many misinterpretations of the research (whether willful or not) — one of the most important being that Greenland is still losing much more ice than is being added through snowfall, and more losses will come in a warming world.

The note, reproduced with permission, is below. This post was held up by the flood of climate news last week out of the “major emitters” meetings in Japan and Washington:

What about the Greenland ice sheet?
R.S.W. van de Wal, IMAU, Utrecht University, the Netherlands

A paper in Science [July 4] caused some rumor about the role of the Greenland ice sheet in the climate change debate. In the paper the authors argue that there is no evidence for a speed up of the ice marginal zone due to enhanced ablation rates, which by some people was explained as if Greenland was not contributing to sea level change any more. In order to understand what it really means in terms of sea level or climate change in general we have to go back to how an ice sheet works.

The Greenland ice sheet gains mass via snowfall and losses mass via the production of icebergs and by melt of ice in the ice marginal zone. If you add snowfall, melt and ice berg production over the entire ice sheet you know whether the ice sheet in total losses mass or gains mass. So an ice sheet can loose mass either by increased iceberg production, increased melt or decreased snowfall. Current estimates from satellites show that the ice sheet is loosing mass and it is predicted by the IPCC that Greenland will contribute modestly to sea level rise by about 10 cm over this century [just under 4 inches]. [Here’s a nice New York Times graphic showing several mechanisms for Greenland’s ice shedding.]

There are however a few mechanisms, which might considerably increase this number and those are subject of intense scientific debate. First of all there is the interaction between the ocean and the ice sheet. During the beginning of this century several outlet glaciers, which are the glaciers producing the icebergs, retreated unexpectedly. This is still poorly understood and scientists monitor those glaciers with increased attention since then. Secondly, more recently we were surprised with the retreat of the sea ice in the Arctic Ocean during summer time. Disappearance of the sea ice likely leads to more absorption of sunlight and hence warming of the area. How this affects the ice sheet is yet unclear. Thirdly, we have the recent paper addressing the ice marginal zones of the ice sheet.

As about 50% of the mass loss occurs via the ice marginal zones it is important to study them. What the current paper shows is that the positive feedback between melt and velocities is not so important as expected over a period of 15 years. What is this feedback and why is it important at all? Ice moves from high and cold regions towards low and warm regions. There are indications that this movement is affected by the melt at the surface. It is shown in the paper and a few other studies that during strong melt events in summer the ice moves faster. The reason for this is that the melt water percolates through the ice to the bottom and lubricates the ice so that the friction reduces and the sliding of the ice increases. So, the positive feedback between melt and velocities implies that more melt leads to higher velocities, which bring in more ice from cold regions to warm regions which increases the melt and hence the velocity etc, with as a final result a rapid loss of ice and hence an enhanced increased sea level.
The Science study shows that it doesn’t work like that. Over a period of 17 years the ice sheet is not speeding up in the ice marginal zone, probably because the ice sheet gets more efficient in removing the water near the bottom if the amount of water at the surface increases. It acts as a sink where the drainage pipes widen as soon as you open the tap.

This study does not show that the melt is decreasing, contrary it shows a small increase in ablation which is fully consistent with IPCC predictions concerning melt of the ice sheet. So, no new alarm bells this time from the glaciologists, but the uncertainties concerning outlet glaciers and the effects of sea ice retreat are still in the air and imply that sea level rise estimates might need to be reconsidered.

It would all be so nice, in a way, if the science were simple. But it isn’t. That means society is going to have to make up its mind about climate policies and related energy choices without certainty on the level of threat posed by business as usual. And it means more time must be spent on those ice sheets, both in the melt zones and the places where accumulation of snow still dominates — including Swiss Camp, which I visited on the flanks of the ice sheet in 2004:

Retreat: A photograph taken in August from an icebreaker research cruise in the Arctic Ocean, about 600 miles north of the Alaska coastline.  At right, newest "endangered species."

Global Warming: Is It A Scenario Too Scary To Think About? 
Experts say scope of the problem makes it hard for people to be optimistic 

By Judy Benson    
Published on 6/22/2008

To Patricia Kremer, climate change is a runaway train carrying Earth toward a forbidding future.

”Just stop the train,” said Kremer, a retiring marine scientist who has witnessed the effects during her studies of the ocean's environments for 30 years. She and her husband, James, who is also about to retire from a career as a marine scientist and professor, work at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus.

She is not alone in thinking this. United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon says that whether you call it climate change, global warming or climate disruption, it's “the defining challenge of our age.”

In November, when Ban made his pronouncement, the 2,500 climate scientists from around the world who comprise the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had just issued their strongest alert about the global disaster threatening the future.

”If there is no action before 2012, that's too late,” said Rajendra Pachauri, the scientist and economist who heads the IPCC. “What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future.”

But global warming isn't just a challenge for humans' problem-solving abilities. It's also tough on the human psyche - it's depressing, scary and complicated, after all - and tackling it goes against some natural human tendencies.

”We've evolved primarily to deal with immediate crises, versus things that are far out in the future,” said Elise L. Amel, associate professor of psychology and director of environmental studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. “But we also have the cognitive capacity to deal with future problems. It's just a matter of finding the right hook.”

Problem is, said her research colleague, Christie Manning of the environmental studies department at Macalester College, also in St. Paul, people don't like thinking or talking about climate change, much less figuring out what to do about it. That's true, she said, even though their research shows more than 95 percent of the public accepts that human industrial and agricultural emissions are to blame.

”Global warming is something that creates anxiety, and anxiety is uncomfortable,” said Manning. “That leads to emotion-focused coping - rationalizing and denying - as opposed to problem-focused coping. People are less likely to become engaged if they don't have the sense that they can contribute to the solution and that the solution will be successful.”

Understanding that dynamic - essentially the human need for hope and some measure of control - is essential for policymakers, environmental activists and scientists as they try to develop effective strategies to slow and adapt to climate change, said Manning and Amel. That's especially true since many of the actions are likely to require behavioral and economic changes in the way people use energy and natural resources.

And it's hard for everyone, even James and Patricia Kremer. Just because they're scientists with expertise in a certain facet of the environment - he in coastal ecosystems and she in jellyfish and related marine creatures - doesn't mean they have any special ability to cope with the frightening projections. But they're trying.

”For me,” said James Kremer, “it's almost doublethink. You hold two mutually inconsistent ideas in your mind at the same time. You have to have a partition. I'm very depressed when I hear the dire predictions, but I'm willing to go ahead and alter my behavior and hope for the best.”

He tries to convince the skeptics who insist on engaging him at cocktail parties that the evidence is solid, the scientific consensus unprecedented. Taking a risk that the overwhelming majority of the world's climate experts are wrong is one humanity can't afford, he argues, but the same isn't true if people do heed the warnings.

”The bottom line is that even if the science is wrong and we take action, it's still not very bad,” he said. “In fact, even though I believe the science, I know it's not perfect. But regardless, there's going to be a net benefit from reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

In their personal lives, the Kremers, who live in Groton, have cut back on energy use, taking steps such as putting their television and computer on power strips - to prevent automatic power activators from being a constant energy draw - and driving a fuel-efficient small car. The net gain, James Kremer said, is some personal satisfaction, a bit of savings and being some small part, he hopes, of an overall cultural attitude change.

Doing nothing because you feel whatever difference it makes will be too small to matter, “is like saying you shouldn't vote” because it's only one vote, said Patricia.

”The leadership role an individual can play may not be overt,” said James Kremer, “but it can have a multiplier effect” in influencing others.

As they retire and plan a move to California to live near their daughter and 10-month-old grandson, they're making some other environmentally conscious choices, including having solar panels installed on their new home. Patricia Kremer is also thinking about becoming an activist, now that she's freed from a university scientist's ethical restrictions on political involvement.

The knowledge that their grandson's generation could see some cataclysmic effects of climate change by the time he's an adult is both sobering and motivating.

”I think it's important to think about the fact that the sooner we do take real, concerted action, the less painful it will be,” she said. “The analogy I make is with the fishing industry, and overfishing. If we had taken relatively small actions 20 years ago, they would have had a positive effect and we wouldn't be having these huge collapses we have now.”

The Kremers, said Amel, are taking advantage of the major life change they're making with retiring and moving.

”When your life is in flux,” she said, “that's the best time to change behaviors.”

Amel and Manning said their research shows that people want and need clear direction about what they can do and what's really effective. They need positive feedback when they do take action to reduce their personal contribution to global warming, known as a carbon footprint. People also need to be willing to step outside the norm.

”The way to combat the sense of futility is to be the change you want to see,” said Manning. “That shows others that there are other people behaving differently.”

”Evolutionarily,” added Amel, “we pay very close attention to the people around us. Our bodies react very viscerally to what others are doing. It's hard to do something outside the current zone of acceptability. That's the real reason people don't change even though they want to. It's going to take some early adapters to make these changes. 

State Senate Approves Global Warming Bill
Hartford Courant
Staff and Wire Reports
3:14 PM EDT, May 5, 2008

The state Senate has given final legislative approval to a bill aimed at reducing the pollution that causes global warming.

Senators voted 35-0 in favor of the legislation today and sent it to Gov. M. Jodi Rell. The House of Representatives approved it earlier. If she signs it into law, Connecticut will be the fifth state to adopt mandatory limits on global warming pollution. The state passed legislation back in 2004. But that law, which established benchmarks for air pollution reduction, was voluntary.

The new bill would require total emissions to be capped at 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. It would also require emissions levels to be cut 80 percent below 2001 levels by 2050. Many scientists say those goals must be reached worldwide in order to stave off the worst effects of global warming.

The bill would force state agencies to calculate and list greenhouse gases produced in the state, come up with strategies to meet the new reduction goals and start measuring the state's progress.

Those efforts could affect a broad spectrum of daily life in Connecticut, including the cost of electricity; incentives for conserving energy and using alternative, renewable sources; how homes and businesses are built; the types of motor vehicles on the road and the availability of public transportation.

To get there, it will take a very comprehensive, statewide effort," said state Rep. Patricia Widlitz, D-Guilford, who led the charge for the bill on the House floor last week. Widlitz argued that although the state has made progress, it is falling short of goals set by legislation in 2004.

"When we have a mandatory cap, then people will be serious about doing something that gets us there," she said. "Connecticut doesn't have the power to stop climate change, but we have the resources to diminish its impact."

The bill sets deadlines for state officials to set up an inventory of the state's greenhouse gas emissions and come up with strategies and regulations to reduce emissions. Those strategies will include selling "permits" to emit carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, and possibly setting a low-carbon fuel standard and developing better mass transit.

18 states commit to take action on climate change 
By JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press Writer 
Posted on Apr 18, 5:41 PM EDT

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger predicted Friday that an international deadlock over how to deal with global warming will end once President Bush leaves office, while a leading expert warned of dire consequences if urgent action is not taken.

Schwarzenegger spoke at a conference at Yale University in which 18 states pledged to take action on climate change. He noted a dispute over whether the U.S. should commit to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions before China and India do the same.

"But I think the deadlock is about to be broken," said Schwarzenegger, a Republican like Bush.

Schwarzenegger said all three president candidates would be great for the environment and predicted progress after one is inaugurated.

Schwarzenegger has been at odds with the Bush administration over a 2002 California law to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency blocked the law from taking effect in California and 16 other states, saying global warming is not unique to the state and that emission goals should be set nationally.

Bush called for a halt Wednesday in the growth of greenhouse gases by 2025, acknowledging the need to head off serious climate change. The plan came under fire immediately from environmentalists and congressional Democrats who favor mandatory emission cuts, a position also held by all three presidential contenders.

Bush for the first time set a specific target date for U.S. climate pollution reductions and said he was ready to commit to a binding international agreement on long-term reductions as long as other countries such as China do the same.

Dr. R. K. Pachauri, chairman of the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warned that without action to curb global warming agricultural yields would fall and flooding and heat waves would become more intense. Some species could become extinct, he said.

Pachauri said measures to curb warming are not expensive.

"The myth that there will be a loss of jobs and economic output needs to be exploded," Pachauri declared.

Pachauri praised the efforts of governors to deal with the issue.

"But there is a need for the country as a whole to move forward," Pachauri said.

The governors of Connecticut, California, Kansas and New Jersey were at Yale on Friday along with two Canadian premiers to review state programs and develop a strategy to combat global climate change.

"If we can move the states forward toward serious action it is a very substantial commitment and a very significant step toward the start of a thoughtful and serious response to address the problem of climate change," said Daniel Esty, director of the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

Esty said the 18 states that signed a declaration committing themselves to action together produce as much emissions as Europe's four biggest economies.

Among other things, the declaration says the states recommit themselves to the effort to stop global warming and call on congressional leaders and presidential candidates to work with them to establish a comprehensive national climate policy.

"Rewarding and encouraging meaningful and mandatory federal and state climate action is the key to success," the declaration states.

It also pledges to reach out to the presidential candidates to shape the first 100 days of the next administration.

The states signing the declaration are: Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Washington.

Global warming involved here? 
Feds give city $240,000 for stormwater plan
By ROBERT KOCH, Hour Staff Writer
July 1, 2008

The city has landed $240,000 in federal Clean Water Fund money to prepare a stormwater management plan aimed at curbing flooding and upgrading Norwalk's aged sewer system, according to public works officials.

Norwalk is one of three municipalities participating in the Stormwater Authority Pilot Program, which state lawmakers created to address water-quality issues and fix aging infrastructure.

"The city of Norwalk has undertaken this project to fulfill its obligation to meet new regulatory requirements on stormwater quality, advance its efforts to address flood risks, and to better maintain its aging system of storm sewers and drainage channels," said Elisabeth O. Bardon, operations manager at the Department of Public Works. "The city recognizes the need for improving the management of stormwater within the city and implement an enhanced stormwater management program."

The money, received through the state Department of Environmental Protection, will be matched with $60,000 in city funds to pay for the $300,000 study. Malcolm Pirnie, an engineering consulting firm based in White Plains, N.Y., and the Pepe & Hazard LLP, a law firm with offices in Southport, are preparing the study.

The resulting study will recommend capital improvements to the city's stormwater system and include a financial plan to help the city modernize and manage the system. Public works officials anticipate that the study will be completed within eight months.

"They've got to research what stormwater authorities are doing all around the country, what potential revenue sources would be. There's a lot of work in here," said Harold F. Alvord, director of public works, explaining the cost of the study. "Plus all three towns have to submit a joint report. It's not three single reports. (The study) ought to give us some good ideas on how to raise some more money (for repairs to the system)."

Norwalk, New London, New Haven and Stonington were approved to participate in the pilot program. Stonington since has opted out of the program.

In recent years, a number of Norwalk neighborhoods, including the areas of Olmstead Place, Lockwood Lane and Buckingham Place, have been plagued by flooding. Residents of those and other flood-prone areas have sought compensation from the city for flood damage to their properties, and pressed Alvord and other public works officials to repair and replace aged and undersized drainage pipes.

A number of such projects are in planning or under way. At the same time, Alvord and other officials say there are insufficient dollars to correct each and every deficiency in the system.

State Rep. Christopher R. Perone, D-137, co-sponsor of the bill that resulted in the adoption of the pilot program, said the stormwater management plan will "start the process" of improving the city's stormwater system.

"By creating a plan, you understand where the priorities are, what has to be addressed first," Perone said. "You need a road map if you want to get anywhere."

High Sea, High Risk; Shoreline Towns Beginning To Prepare For The Inevitable
By DAVID FUNKHOUSER | Courant Staff Writer
December 16, 2007

GUILFORD - Pollyanna Rock has always been a familiar foothold for Kathy Waugh, the spot she swam to as a child to test her mettle in the sea during summer days at her grandparents' cottage on Mulberry Point.

The Long Island Sound tide rose and fell, but the black boulder never dropped completely out of sight beneath the water surface. Forty years later, she still visits the modest two-bedroom house, though her family rents it out most of the summer. And now, for about six hours a day, she can no longer see Pollyanna Rock.

This is a small measure of how a rising sea is changing the map of Guilford, as it is changing coastlines around the world. The sea has been coming up for thousands of years, following the retreat of glaciers after the last Ice Age, scientists say. But the water level is rising faster now, and scientists say that is driven by global warming.

Whatever you believe about climate change, some things are irrefutable: The sea off Connecticut's coast rose at least 8 inches over the past century, and it is rising about a tenth of an inch per year now. And Pollyanna Rock is not the only thing that is disappearing.

In this community of 21,000 on the Sound, the higher sea level already affects homes, marinas, roads, beaches and marshes. People have started to assess what might happen, and what they should do about it.

"I'm of two minds," Waugh said, sitting in the backyard of her cottage, a couple of feet above the incoming tide. The family could build up the sea wall or try to find the money to raise the house up on stilts, she said. But she added: "Part of me feels it will be a very natural thing to happen if the sea swallows this house."

Guilford is ahead of many communities in anticipating sea level rise: In 2004, the town brought together local officials, scientists and other experts in coastal resources, insurance and emergency planning for a daylong workshop on the impact of climate change.

The town is rewriting its 25-year-old coastal zone management plan — the document that guides decisions on land use along the shoreline and tidal rivers. But the effort raises tricky questions about public vs. private interests, and it is already clear that Guilford residents and officials will face difficult choices in the years ahead.

The U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — which won the Nobel Peace Prize this year along with former Vice President Al Gore — said in its latest report on Nov. 17 that sea level rise will wreak havoc during the next century. Higher seas will drown islands, erode coastlines and disrupt the lives and food supplies of hundreds of millions of people.

That poses huge risks for heavily populated areas like the low-lying deltas of Bangladesh and Egypt. In the United States, beachfront states from New Jersey south along the Atlantic Coast and the low-lying Gulf Coast are most at risk.

The threat is less severe along the rocky headlands, quiet beaches and sheltered coves of Connecticut's shoreline. But more than 2 million people live near the water. An eroding coastline and higher storm surges could threaten $600 billion in property, roads, bridges, railways and other infrastructure.

The threat is not just a slow, long-term problem, however. Nature has unleashed violence on us before, and most agree it is going to happen again, only next time, it will be much worse.

In A Hurry

Leslie Kane drives her well-used Jeep Cherokee down Neck Road, along the length of a small thumb of land that curls up between Long Island Sound and the East River. Kane, Guilford's environmental planner, is dashing around town to record how high the water reaches today — part of an effort by her and several other residents to document what is happening to the town.

It's 11:30 in the morning on a bright, calm September day. The Earth and sun just passed the equinox, and the moon is full, which means the tides will run especially high.

Kane turns right onto a road that cuts across the marshy peninsula to a state boat launch, and then stops the car. Two sea gulls are floating in the middle of the road.

This peninsula, ironically named Grass Island, is not so far from turning into a real island.

Flooding like this "used to happen rarely," Kane said — maybe during a bad storm. Now it happens three or four times a year.

Much of the marsh, on the inland side of Neck Road, is flooded. Across the road, on the sandy outer edge of the peninsula, homes with million-dollar views face the Sound.

According to the U.N. climate change panel, the latest climate models predict that oceans will keep rising at an increased rate — up to 2 feet by 2100. Most of that is from thermal expansion — as water warms, it expands, and the average temperature of the oceans is going up. Some is from melting glaciers and ice caps.

The warming also appears to be accelerating the melting of major polar ice sheets like the one that covers most of Greenland. If that keeps up, scientists say, the sea level will rise substantially higher and faster.

Global warming also is expected to spur more severe storms and heavier precipitation, the panel said. Higher water means that ocean surges from hurricanes and other storms will reach farther inland, that the land will drain more slowly, and that inland floods will be more severe. A higher sea level will push saltwater farther into fresh water systems, including tidal rivers and groundwater.

The benchmark for flooding is the 100-year storm — the kind of event, like the hurricane of 1938, that has about a 1 percent chance of occurring in any given year. A report issued last July by the Union of Concerned Scientists predicted that if we do nothing to control global warming, by the end of the century in New London, for example, such a flood could be occurring every 17 years.

The Connecticut shoreline has been changing naturally for thousands of years. But humans — beginning with European settlers — have radically altered the dynamic between land and sea. We've drained marshes for pastureland and filled wetlands so we could build on them. Man-made barriers such as groins, sea walls and bulkheads forced new patterns of sedimentation and erosion. Roads and rail lines cut off inland marshes from the tides and blocked seaward marshes from retreating inland, leaving them to drown — and removing important buffers between sea and land.

You can see all this clearly on Shell Beach Road, a quiet cove near where Leslie Kane grew up. The road crosses the cove close to the shore, pinching the tidal flow through two culverts that run under the road and up into the marsh. Route 146 and the Amtrak line form additional barriers, cutting across marshland farther inland. The wetlands, once rich with grasses, are turning into mud flats.

On Sept 21, 1938, a Category 3 hurricane blew across Long Island and into Connecticut and Rhode Island, killing more than 600 people and leaving swaths of coastline in ruins. Huge ships were smashed onto the New London docks, and the storm set off a devastating fire. A surging wave of water undermined railroad track all along the coast and in Stonington derailed the Bostonian, a passenger train.

The homes on Shell Beach Road were thrown across the marsh and against Route 146. Today, houses are back on the beach, on stilts.

Most people have no conception of how traumatic the '38 storm was. From the federal level on down, officials are encouraging better planning, and some concrete steps have been taken: Over the years, the Army Corps of Engineers has built five hurricane barriers in southern New England, including in Stonington, New London and Stamford. The Corps says these systems of dikes, flood gates and pumps have already prevented millions of dollars in damage.

Still, there is a general recognition that if the southern New England coast got hit again like it did in '38, the losses would be huge.

Insurance companies know what is at stake. They have been slammed by losses from catastrophic storms such as hurricanes Andrew and Katrina. A 2006 Connecticut study found that standard homeowner's insurance is difficult to find for people living within 1,000 feet of the water, and the companies that handle such coverage charge two to three times more than the typical cost of insuring a home farther inland.

Connecticut ranks sixth in the United States in the value of property vulnerable to storm damage, according to the Insurance Information Institute in New York.

Old Saybrook First Selectman Michael Pace has been planning for disaster for years. His town has bought surplus Army trucks, upgraded the emergency radio system and identified the town's most vulnerable areas.

He also has an eye on the town's tax base: 50 years ago, most homes on the shore were $35,000 summer cottages, he said; today, those properties are each worth $800,000 or more. A major storm, Pace said, "would wipe out literally several millions of dollars in tax revenue."

His assessment is in sync with that of the Northeast Regional Ocean Council, a group dedicated to coordinating coastal management. In an August report to New England governors, the council said that a storm of the same magnitude as the '38 hurricane "would rank as the sixth-costliest hurricane in U.S. history."

Regular Flooding

Caren Mintz, an environmental consultant in New York, wrote her master's thesis for Yale University on how Florida and Connecticut are adapting to climate change. One of the towns she studied was Guilford, where she found both enthusiasm for the subject, and reluctance to act.

"Many citizens do not see any benefits to their interests because they lack the information or direct experience to know that their property could be in danger (e.g., they never lived through a hurricane striking their land) and thus resist adaptation changes," Mintz wrote.

Sid Gale, a business consultant who has made climate change a personal cause, has been trying to do something about that. Gale has recorded flooding and storms all over town and lectures wherever he can on sea level rise. He helped organize the climate change conference here in 2004.

Kane meets up with Gale at Grass Island during the equinox tide. Camera in hand, Gale gestures toward the homes along the shore, collectively worth millions of dollars.

"That's the thing about climate change," he said. "It doesn't discriminate by economic levels."

Over at the town dock and marina, water covers the road leading to the narrow harbor and laps up against a side door of The Mooring, a popular local eatery. The marsh behind the restaurant is a lake.

In the marina, ramps leading to the floating docks angle up instead of down, pushed out of kilter by the high water. Across the parking lot, the town boat ramp is swamped.

The inventory continues down the shoreline: At the town beach, the bottom rung of the public boat racks has been removed, because the kayaks stored there were in danger of floating away during especially high tides.

Flooding occurs regularly in the yards of homes on Seaside Avenue, on the road out to Chaffinch Island and Brown's Boat Yard, along low-lying portions of Route 146 — including a causeway raised two decades ago precisely to prevent flooding.

David North is not so sure about global warming. He owns Brown's Boat Yard and serves on the committee that is revising Guilford's coastal zone management plan. He thinks what we are seeing is part of a natural cycle.

"We see it more often because people are there more," he said. "In 1965, 80 percent of the houses were summer houses and people weren't around for the winter storms.

"On Christmas Eve we're going to have 18 inches of water over Chaffinch Island Road — that's predictable. It's happened for 100 years, and it's going to keep happening for 1,000 years.

"It isn't going to start or stop because Al Gore put together a slide show," he said, referring to the former vice president's campaign to address global warming.

North has not seen "An Inconvenient Truth," the movie about Gore's campaign, but, he said, "A lot of things he brings attention to are good things — like using less energy. Americans are pigs — we use it, we want it, we can afford it. If we can be more considerate to the rest of the planet, that's a good thing."

North wants the town and the state to do more to protect the marshes and coastline from erosion, using dredged materials from local harbors to build offshore barriers. Raising roads, he said, is just normal maintenance — like the 3 or 4 inches of gravel he drops onto areas of his boat yard each year, to keep it from flooding.

A Wake-Up Call

Sachem's Head is a rocky peninsula that sticks out into the Sound like a huge hand. The area, dotted with expansive homes and great views, would be cut off from the rest of town by a modest flood.

An hour or so past the peak of the equinox tide, water still covers most of the lawn behind the Sachem's Head Yacht Club barn. Inside the barn, a rough black mark swabbed onto a board 4 feet off the floor records how high the water reached during the 1938 hurricane.

Kane and Gale step onto a metal footbridge to look at the homes that back up to the narrow harbor. Some have stone sea walls, some don't. This suggests the obvious: When the water rises, it will simply find its way around whatever barriers an individual homeowner has erected.

"You'd better think about a community strategy rather than an individual property," Gale said. And if you do try to think about a broader strategy, "then the solutions are going to have to require a long lead time."

People have to get together, agree on what they want to do, and find the money to pay for it. Vulnerable properties in Guilford alone include hundreds of homes, businesses and marinas. Also at risk are the public works yard, the Amtrak line and the Shoreline East train station, major highways, and access roads that are the only way into certain neighborhoods.

Then, Gale said, consider what will have to be protected along the entire Connecticut coastline — I-95, railroads, bridges, sewage treatment plants, oil tanks, schools and an airport.

"That's a lot of people competing for federal money," he said. If people wait until they can see more dramatic results of sea level rise, "we will have lost a lot of valuable time."

"It's hard to grasp the problem," said John Henningson, chairman of the committee reviewing the coastal management plan. "We know the elevations — we know what 1 foot above mean high water looks like. It's easy to see where we're headed.

"We're trying to wake people up to this … even in the short term, a foot can be of great concern. If you have a foot of mean sea level rise, [flooding is] going to be happening every day."

Henningson's committee meets once a month and has consulted with homeowners' associations, town boards, environmental groups and other citizens. Their concerns range from traffic problems, public access and property setbacks, marsh restoration and shell-fishing licenses, to people tearing down old summer cottages to build huge homes that clog the view.

Overshadowing it all is sea level rise.

The town faces serious erosion problems and will have to rebuild some protective barriers, raise roads and causeways, build up beaches and dredge some areas to remove sediment piling up from erosion, Henningson said.

But try to tell someone what to do with their own property, and watch out.

"Some say, 'I pay the taxes, I should be able to do what I want.' I'm inclined to agree with them, to a point," Henningson said. "Where is the boundary between that and the public's rights, your rights, the rights of your neighbor?"

Adapting On The Shore

Architect Philippe Campus recently redesigned a home overlooking marshes on Mulberry Point, just down the street from Kathy Waugh. He turned two low-slung cottages into a three-story home with spectacular views.

The house sits in a V zone — the V is for velocity — the federally designated flood zone that means a property is subject to the force of incoming waves as well as rising water during a severe storm. Campus designed the house to withstand a 4-foot wave: The living area sits on high concrete piers; the garage and ground levels are closed off with loose cinder blocks designed to give way under pressure from incoming waves. Water would rush through the openings under the building and drain back out.

As far as the rising sea is concerned, the Mulberry Point house "is the safest in the neighborhood," Campus said.

But this sort of conversion raises hackles all along the shoreline: Residents complain about losing views and the traditional scale of the neighborhoods when owners raze old summer homes and replace them with million-dollar mansions.

Campus defends his Mulberry Point house: The structure is set back farther from the marsh than the old cottages and uses a more advanced septic system. While the house is taller, it is more compact than what had been there before. And, the house has a much smaller carbon footprint: A geothermal system heats and cools it, and photovoltaic panels help with electrical needs.

While it may be best not to build at all on the water, Campus said, he would rather see a better structure built on an existing property than on vacant land.

There are three basic responses to sea level rise: retreat, accommodation and protection. You move; you compromise with the sea; or you build barriers against it. All involve some sacrifice and can pit public interest against private property rights. The more built-up the shoreline is, the harder the choices become.

While Campus' design reflects the building code, a lot of older homes do not match up with the more up-to-date requirements.

One form of accommodation already adopted in some form in several states is called rolling easements. As the sea rises and moves inland, so does the boundary between public and private land: Anything below mean high water belongs to the public, and legal precedent suggests that private property owners will lose out as their land is submerged.

Rolling easements recognize this shift: Landowners recognize that they may have to move back and eventually abandon their land, if and when the sea moves in.

Federal rules already require new and renovated homes in the area of a projected 100-year flood to meet certain codes, including putting living areas above where the water in such a flood would reach. One defensive option is to raise the standards — in other words, to force people to build stronger and higher. Instead of a standard foundation, say, you use a steel beam construction. You put living space several feet above the level of a 100-year flood.

Guilford and other coastal communities such as New Haven and Bridgeport are weighing such options, along with longer setbacks; shoring up both "hard" and "soft" barriers such as beaches, riverbanks and streets; restoring marshes as a natural barrier to storms; and buying up and conserving land in the flood plain.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers grants to communities that take certain steps to mitigate the effects of flooding and other hazards. A dozen Connecticut communities — though not Guilford — have signed on: In return, they can get grants to lift houses or buy homeowners out of the flood plain.

The coastal plan committee in Guilford has produced several "working papers" that lay out the issues the town faces. In the paper on sea level rise, they state:

"Ultimately, the homes in the coastal flood zone might find it easier to relocate to entirely different properties, while the Leete's Island residents and tenants may learn to time their arrival and departure with the tides, as residents of Lieutenant's Island do on Cape Cod, allowing the road to flood twice each day."

Down the street from Campus' creation sits Pollyanna Rock. When the tide is right, Kathy Waugh wades out in the morning with a cup of coffee to sit and watch the sea.

She is 50 and works for WGBH, the public television station in Boston, where she has written for "Arthur" and other children's shows. She holds warm memories of her time exploring the shoreline when she was a child.

She also feels a responsibility for the future: "We need to do something about how we live," she said.

Sitting in her backyard, she remembers a storm last spring when the water washed right up past the house and onto the road behind it.

"I expect the house is going to be gone in 50 years," she said.

"Part of me knows nothing lasts forever. … On good days, I think we'll fix it. On bad days. I feel the politicians won't act in time."

Story in full here along with animated maps.

Nations to Decide on Creating Vast Antarctic Marine Reserves
July 15, 2013

BERLIN — An international commission is considering whether to designate the waters around Antarctica special marine reserves, a step campaigners say would safeguard the habitat of whales, seals and penguins and more than double the world's protected sea area.

Any change in status requires a unanimous decision by the 25 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). Two members, Russia and Ukraine, have raised legal concerns, a German delegate told a media briefing on Monday.

The Russian and Ukrainian delegations were not immediately available for comment.

CCAMLR was founded in 1982 to protect Antarctic marine life. The United Nations has committed to classifying 10 percent of the world's coastal waters and oceans as protected areas by 2020 - up from 2 percent at present.

Last November CCAMLR members, which include the European Union, Norway, China, Australia and New Zealand, failed to agree on setting up marine protected areas (MPA) amid disputes over scientific findings, the duration of the protection period, and a reluctance by some to shut off commercial access to new fishing waters.

At a new fresh round of talks beginning in the German town of Bremerhaven on Monday, delegates will examine a U.S. and New Zealand-backed proposal on preserving the Ross Sea, which is seven times the size of Germany, and a European Union, France and Australia-backed proposal for the waters of East Antarctica.

In an open letter to Vladimir Putin, the Ocean Elders campaign group appealed for the Russian president's support.

"The Ross Sea and East Antarctica have been spared the impact of widespread pollution, invasive species, bottom trawling and other large-scale commercial fishing operations that are imperilling other marine areas around the world.

"But conditions are changing, and the need to take steps to better protect key areas in the Southern Ocean is compelling," the letter to Putin said.

Some fishing fleets are looking south because stocks nearer home are depleted and some nations worry about shutting off large areas of the oceans.

"The Ross Sea region is one of the last and greatest ocean wilderness areas on the planet. It is home to a unique and productive ecosystem," the U.S. Department of State said in a statement. "It is also a natural laboratory for scientific study to better understand climate change, our oceans, and our world."

Map tracks Antarctica on the move
By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News
19 August 2011 Last updated at 08:33 ET

Scientists have produced what they say is the first complete map of how the ice moves across Antarctica.  Built from images acquired by radar satellites, the visualisation details all the great glaciers and the smaller ice streams that feed them.  The map has been published online by Science magazine.

It should aid the understanding of how the White Continent might evolve in the warmer world being forecast by climatologists.

"This is like seeing a map of all the oceans' currents for the first time. It's a game changer for glaciology," said lead author Dr Eric Rignot.

"We are seeing amazing flows from the heart of the continent that had never been described before," added the US space agency (Nasa) and University of California (UC), Irvine, researcher.

The map incorporates billions of radar data points collected between 1996 and 2009 by satellites belonging to Europe, Canada and Japan.  It closes previous data omissions, especially in the east of the continent.

"We designed acquisition plans, switching on and off the satellites, in all the right desired geographic locations so we could fill the gaps we didn't have data in before," explained Dr Mark Drinkwater from the European Space Agency. "That was a mammoth effort," he told BBC News.

Dr Drinkwater praised in particular the contribution of Canadian company MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, which rolled its Radarsat-2 spacecraft every time it flew near the pole to get a view of the ice surface at the highest latitudes. "That was the only way we could fill the so-called 'data hole' that satellites traditionally don't see," he explained.

Ice movement is detected using a technique called Satellite Radar Interferometry (InSAR), which compares images from repeat passes over the same location.  InSAR will pick up even subtle deformations in the ice sheet resulting from slow creep. That said, some areas of Antarctica are moving very fast.

Ice velocities on the new map range from just few cm/year near places where the ice divides into different paths, to km/year on fast-moving glaciers and the ice shelves that float out from the edges of the continent.

The sprinters are Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers in West Antarctica. This region, say the authors, is also the part of the continent "experiencing most rapid change at present, over the widest area, and with the greatest impact on total ice sheet mass balance".

Recent survey work has revealed that Pine Island, for example, is thinning rapidly; its surface has been dropping by more than 15m per year.  Other fast-moving streams include the Larsen B glaciers on the Antarctic Peninsula. These glaciers experienced an eightfold increase in speed when the floating ice shelf that bounded them collapsed in 2002.

Although the broad picture of how the ice drains from the centre of Antarctica to the edges has been reasonably well characterised for some time, the map throws up a number of previously unrecognised features. These include a new ridge that splits the 14 million square km landmass from east to west.  The map will be useful in monitoring change over time, by comparing it to past and future measurements.

It should also assist the calibration of the computer models that are used to forecast how the ice sheet will react to changes in the climate and the surrounding ocean. The models will need to reproduce the sort of behaviour seen in the map before scientists can have confidence in their ability to predict the future.  One aspect they need to simulate better is the length of some of the ice streams, which stretch much deeper into the interior of Antarctica than many people had acknowledged.

The map work was completed as part of the 2007-8 International Polar Year (IPY), a concerted programme of research to investigate Earth's far north and south.  As part of that initiative, a lot of effort was also put into mapping the rock bed of Antarctica.

Understanding conditions at the sheet's base, which can slide on liquid water, is a key part of the equation that describes how the ice mass above will move.

Deja vu all over again;  Minke Whales, next, a symbol of the issue.  And click here to read 1 December 2009 I-BBC story  Larger version of I-BBC map at right of Antarctica - click here.

Grounded iceberg (M.Brandon) The scale of the bergs that arrive at South Georgia is hard to grasp

Giant icebergs head to watery end at island graveyard
South Georgia is the place where colossal icebergs go to die.

By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News, San Francisco
15 December 2010 Last updated at 04:31 ET

The huge tabular blocks of ice that frequently break off Antarctica get swept towards the Atlantic and then ground on the shallow continental shelf that surrounds the 170km-long island.  As they crumble and melt, they dump billions of tonnes of freshwater into the local marine environment.  UK scientists say the giants have quite dramatic impacts, even altering the food webs for South Georgia's animals.

Those familiar with the epic journey of Ernest Shackleton in 1916 will recall that it was at South Georgia that the explorer sought help to rescue his men stranded on Elephant Island.  The same currents that assisted Shackleton's navigation across the Scotia Sea in the James Caird lifeboat are the same ones that drive icebergs to South Georgia today.

"The scale of some these icebergs is something else," said oceanographer Dr Mark Brandon from the Open University.

"The iceberg known as A-38 had a mass of 300 gigatonnes. It broke up into two fragments, but it also shattered into lots of smaller bergs. Each smaller berg was still fairly big and each dumped lots of freshwater into the system."

Dr Brandon has been presenting his research here at the 2010 American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, the largest annual gathering in the world for Earth scientists.

Slow death

With a group of colleagues he planted scientific moorings off South Georgia in several hundred metres of water. The moorings held sensors to monitor the physical properties of the water, including temperature, salinity and water velocity. The presence of plankton was also measured.  The moorings were in prime position to capture what happened when the mega-berg A-38 turned up in 2004.

It is one of many tabular blocks, such as B-10A and A-22B, which have been caught at South Georgia, which lies downstream of the Antarctic Peninsula in currents known as the Weddell-Scotia Confluence.  The island's continental shelf extends typically more than 50km from the coast and has an average depth of about 200m, and when the mega-bergs reach the island, they ground and slowly decay.

"All that freshwater has a measurable effect on the structure of the water column," said Dr Brandon. "It changes the currents on the shelf because it changes the seawater's density. It makes the seawater quite a lot cooler as well." A-38 probably put about 100 billion tonnes of freshwater into the local area.  Professor Eugene Murphy, from the British Antarctic Survey, says mega-bergs have important biological impacts.

Dust and rock fragments picked up in Antarctica act as nutrients when they melt out into the ocean, fuelling life such as algae and diatoms right at the bottom of food webs.  But at South Georgia, the giants may on occasions have a more negative consequence, especially in the case of A-38. Some of the data collected by researchers across the territory leads the team to think the berg's great bulk may have acted as a barrier to the inflow of krill.

These shrimp-like creatures follow the same currents as the bergs and are a vital source of food to many of the island's animals, including its penguins, seals and birds.  In years when there are few krill at South Georgia, the predators that eat them will suffer poor breeding success. In really bad years, the beaches of South Georgia can be littered with dead pups and chicks, Professor Murphy says.

"When that berg was sat on the shelf, if was directly in the path of areas that we would normally think of being the main inflow areas for the krill," he told BBC News.

"It does look as though that year was somewhat unusual.

"It was not the worst year but it was one of the more extreme years. And we haven't really got another explanation for what happened in 2004. So this is partly why we're looking at the physics of this problem, to see if we can then examine how it may have affected the biology."

Study Halves Prediction of Rising Seas
May 15, 2009

A new analysis halves longstanding projections of how much sea levels could rise if Antarctica’s massive western ice sheets fully disintegrated as a result of global warming.

The flow of ice into the sea would probably raise sea levels about 10 feet rather than 20 feet, according to the analysis, published in the May 15 issue of the journal Science.

The scientists also predicted that seas would rise unevenly, with an additional 1.5-foot increase in levels along the east and west coasts of North America. That is because the shift in a huge mass of ice away from the South Pole would subtly change the strength of gravity locally and the rotation of the Earth, the authors said.

Several Antarctic specialists familiar with the new study had mixed reactions to the projections.

But they and the study’s lead author, Jonathan L. Bamber of the Bristol Glaciology Center, in England agreed that the odds of a disruptive rise in seas over the next century or so from the buildup of greenhouse gases remained serious enough to warrant the world’s attention.

They also uniformly called for renewed investment in ice-probing satellites and field missions that could within a few years substantially clarify the risk.

There is strong consensus that warming waters around Antarctica, and Greenland in the Arctic, would result in centuries of rising seas. But glaciologists and oceanographers still say uncertainty prevails on the vital question of how fast coasts will retreat in a warming world in the next century or two.

The new study combined computer modeling with measurements of the ice and the underlying bedrock, both direct and by satellite.

It did not assess the pace or likelihood of a rise in seas. The goal was to examine as precisely as possible how much ice could flow into the sea if warming seawater penetrated between the West Antarctic ice sheet and the bedrock beneath.

For decades West Antarctic ice has been identified as particularly vulnerable to melting because, although piled more than one mile above sea level in many places, it also rests on bedrock a half mile to a mile beneath sea level in others. That topography means that warm water could progressively melt spots where ice is stuck to the rock, allowing it to flow more freely.

Erik I. Ivins, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, described the new paper as “good solid science,” but added that the sea-level estimates cannot be verified without renewed investment in satellite missions and other initiatives that are currently lagging.

A particularly valuable satellite program called Grace, which measures subtle variations in gravity related to the mass of ice and rock, “has perhaps a couple of years remaining before its orbit deteriorates,” Dr. Ivins said.

“The sad truth is that we in NASA are watching our earth-observing systems fall by the wayside as they age – without the sufficient resources to see them adequately replaced.”

Robert Bindschadler, a longtime specialist in polar ice at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said the study only provided a low estimate of Antarctica’s possible long-term contribution to rising seas because it did not deal with other mechanisms that could add water to the ocean.

The prime question, he said, remains what will happen in the next 100 years or so, and other recent work implies that a lot of ice can be shed within thattime.

“Even in Bamber’s world,” he said, referring to the study’s lead author, “there is more than enough ice to cause serious harm to the world’s coastlines.”

Ships Collide in Antarctic Whaling Clash
Filed at 2:51 p.m. ET

February 6, 2009

SYDNEY (AP) -- A group of radical anti-whaling activists said they were pelted with bloody chunks of whale meat and blubber after their boat collided Friday with a Japanese whaling vessel in a dramatic Antarctic Ocean clash Japan condemned as ''unforgivable.''

It was the second battle this week between the whalers and their foes. No one was injured, but the skirmishes mark the resumption of potentially life-threatening run-ins in a contentious fight that has become an annual fixture in the remote, icy and dangerous waters at the bottom of the world.

''The situation down here is getting very, very chaotic and very aggressive,'' activist Paul Watson, captain of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's vessel, told The Associated Press on Friday by satellite phone.

The clashes come as diplomatic efforts to resolve the controversy surrounding Japan's scientific whaling program appear to have stalled.

Japan -- which has described the protesters as terrorists -- plans to harvest up to 935 minke whales and 50 fin whales this season. Under International Whaling Commission rules, the mammals may be killed for research. Opponents say the Japanese research expeditions are simply a cover for commercial whaling, which was banned in 1986.

Watson said Friday's fracas began as his crew tried to maneuver their boat into a position that would have prevented the Japanese from dragging a whale on board their whaling vessel. Another Japanese ship shot in front of Watson's boat, causing a collision, Watson said.

''We can see the blood pouring out by the barrel,'' Watson said from his boat -- named after the late Australian conservationist and TV personality Steve Irwin -- as he watched the Japanese haul another whale onto their vessel. Earlier in the day, he said, the Japanese hurled pieces of blubber and whale meat at the Steve Irwin.

Japan blamed Sea Shepherd for the crash, characterizing the incident as a ''deliberate ramming.''

Shigeki Takaya, a Fisheries Agency spokesman for whaling in Japan, accused the conservationists of ''appalling and unforgivable'' acts.

''We will ask concerned countries, including Australia, to immediately stop them from carrying out such horrendous acts,'' Takaya said.

Protesters aboard the Steve Irwin set off from Australia in early December for the Antarctic Ocean, chasing the whaling fleet for about 2,000 miles (3,200 kilometers) before stopping two weeks ago in Tasmania to refuel. The group found the whalers again on Sunday and resumed their pursuit.

During the initial chase, Watson's crew pelted the Japanese with bottles of butyric acid, produced from rancid butter. In one December clash, Japan accused the Sea Shepherd crew of ramming one of its vessels, causing minor damage to the ship. Watson said the Steve Irwin only lightly brushed the whaling vessel.

This week, tensions escalated after Watson said two members of his crew were slightly injured when the Japanese blasted them with a water cannon and hurled heavy hunks of metal. Watson accused the Japanese of using a ''military grade'' noise weapon that can cause deafness and vomiting.

Despite the recent drama, this whaling season has been relatively peaceful compared to previous years.

In January 2008, two Sea Shepherd activists jumped onto a Japanese ship and spent several days in detention on board.

In March 2008, Watson said he was shot at during a confrontation with the whalers, and was saved by his bulletproof vest. Japan denied shots were fired.

That incident came just a few days after Japan said several of its whalers were lightly injured after being hit by containers of rotten butter. Japan responded by shooting back ''sound balls'' similar to stun grenades.

Sea Shepherd and the whalers still blame each other for a 2007 collision that left the Robert Hunter -- since renamed the Steve Irwin -- with a 3-foot (1-meter) gash in its stern.

That year, Japan's whaling hunt ended early after a fire broke out aboard the mother ship, killing one crew member and forcing the fleet to limp back to port. It was not clear what caused the blaze.

Watson, who regularly vows to do anything short of deliberately hurting people to stop whalers, said Friday that he and his crew have no plans to turn back -- and will continue to chase the whalers until their fuel supplies run out.

Postscript: Grounded Antarctic Ship Freed
By Andrew C. Revkin
December 8, 2008, 12:03 pm

Passengers from the MV Ushuaia boarding a Chilean navy vessel. (Credit: Agence France-Presse - Getty Images)
The small cruise ship that ran aground along the Antarctic Peninsula last week and spilled some fuel was hauled off the rocks by a Chilean Navy tug boat, according to the Associated Press and Jon Bowermaster, who’s in the region on another vessel. Naval authorities told the news agency that the fuel spill was controlled. After this incident and the sinking of a similar ship one year ago, the growing polar tourism industry is clearly facing some questions about safety.

Ongoing assessments of penguins and other life along the peninsula have not turned up any clear link between population changes and tourism so far, and the main source of change appears — so far — to be the dramatic warming of the regional climate, Ron Naveen told me in a recent e-mail. His nonprofit group, Oceanites, is conducting an ongoing survey of ecosystems in the area.

Here’s how he described the climate shift, and biological response:

The Peninsula’s warming faster, it appears, than any other place on the planet — since 1957, by an average of 5˚F (2.8˚C) year-round, and by 9˚F (5˚C) in winter. Peninsula Adélie and chinstrap penguins are declining (the Adélies significantly), while gentoo penguins are booming. Peninsula Adélies and chinstraps, traditionally, are known are krill consumers, while the gentoos have more catholic tastes, switching easily among krill, fish, and inverts. Therein, a very complicated tale, not yet sorted — but we’re trying to do so.

The Antarctic Sun, the “newspaper” of Antarctica, has a good story on the pengiun project, with some great photos by Mr. Naveen.

Editorial:  Broken Ice in Antarctica
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Published: March 28, 2008

Winter is coming to Antarctica, and that may be the only thing that keeps another of its major ice shelves from collapsing. On Tuesday, scientists from the British Antarctic Survey announced that there had been an enormous fracture on the edge of the Wilkins ice shelf, which started breaking last month.

That province of ice, a body of permanent floating ice about the size of Connecticut, lies on the western edge of the Antarctic Peninsula, the part of the continent regarded as most vulnerable to climate change. Scientists flew over the break — itself covering some 160 square miles — and what they saw is remarkable: huge, geometrically fractured slabs of ice and, among them, the rubble of a catastrophic breach. A great swath of the ice shelf is being held in place by a thin band of ice.

What matters isn’t just the scale of this breakout. Changes in wind patterns and water temperatures related to global warming have begun to erode the ice sheets of western Antarctica at a faster rate than previously detected, and the total collapse of the Wilkins ice shelf is now within the realm of possibility.

It also comes as a reminder that the warming of Earth’s surface is occurring much faster at the poles than it is in more temperate regions. It is easy to think of ice as somehow temporary, but scientists say that the Wilkins ice shelf may have been in place for at least several hundred years.

Nothing dramatizes the urgency of global warming quite like a fracture of this scale. There is nothing to be done about a collapsing polar ice sheet except to witness it. It may be too late to stop the warming decay at the boundaries of Antarctic ice, yet there is everything to be done. Humans can radically change the way they live and do business, knowing that it is the one chance to find a possible limit to radical change in the natural world around us.

7 August 2010 Last updated at 13:23 ET

Huge ice island breaks from Greenland glacier
A glacial bay on the western coast of Greenland - 2008 file photo Thousands of icebergs calve from Greenland's glaciers every year

A giant block of ice measuring 260 sq km (100 sq miles) has broken off a glacier in Greenland, according to researchers at a US university.

The slab of ice separated from the Petermann Glacier, on the north-west coast of Greenland.

It is the largest Arctic iceberg to calve since 1962, said Prof Andreas Muenchow of the University of Delaware.

The ice could become frozen in place over winter or escape into the waters between Greenland and Canada.

If the iceberg moves south, it could interfere with shipping, Prof Muenchow said.

Cracks in the Petermann Glacier had been observed last year and it was expected that an iceberg would calve from it soon.

The glacier is 1,000 km (620 miles) south of the North Pole.

Ice island

A researcher at the Canadian Ice Service detected the calving from Nasa satellite images taken early on Thursday, the professor said.

The images showed that Petermann Glacier lost about one-quarter of its 70km-long (43-mile) floating ice shelf.

There was enough fresh water locked up in the ice island to "keep all US public tap water flowing for 120 days," said Prof Muenchow.

He said it was not clear if the event was due to global warming.

Patrick Lockerby, a UK engineer with a background in material science, told the BBC he had predicted the calve on 22 July, posting images on the science2.0 website.

"I was watching the floating ice tongue wedged between two walls of a fjord for three quarters if its length with the last part at the outlet end wedged by sea ice. I thought once the sea ice was gone, the pressure would be too great and the tongue would calve."

He said there could be a beneficial outcome if the calving drifts to block the Nares Strait and effectively prevents the loss of more ice from the Lincoln Sea.

The first six months of 2010 have been the hottest on record globally, scientists have said.

Vast Expanses of Arctic Ice Melt in Summer Heat

August 9, 2009Filed at 9:21 p.m. ET

TUKTOYAKTUK, Northwest Territories (AP) -- The Arctic Ocean has given up tens of thousands more square miles (square kilometers) of ice on Sunday in a relentless summer of melt, with scientists watching through satellite eyes for a possible record low polar ice cap.

From the barren Arctic shore of this village in Canada's far northwest, 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) north of Seattle, veteran observer Eddie Gruben has seen the summer ice retreating more each decade as the world has warmed. By this weekend the ice edge lay some 80 miles (128 kilometers) at sea.

''Forty years ago, it was 40 miles (64 kilometers) out,'' said Gruben, 89, patriarch of a local contracting business.

Global average temperatures rose 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degree Celsius) in the past century, but Arctic temperatures rose twice as much or even faster, almost certainly in good part because of manmade greenhouse gases, researchers say.

In late July the mercury soared to almost 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius) in this settlement of 900 Inuvialuit, the name for western Arctic Eskimos.

''The water was really warm,'' Gruben said. ''The kids were swimming in the ocean.''

As of Thursday, the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported, the polar ice cap extended over 2.61 million square miles (6.75 million square kilometers) after having shrunk an average 41,000 square miles (106,000 square kilometers) a day in July -- equivalent to one Indiana or three Belgiums daily.

The rate of melt was similar to that of July 2007, the year when the ice cap dwindled to a record low minimum extent of 1.7 million square miles (4.3 million square kilometers) in September.

In its latest analysis, the Colorado-based NSIDC said Arctic atmospheric conditions this summer have been similar to those of the summer of 2007, including a high-pressure ridge that produced clear skies and strong melt in the Beaufort Sea, the arm of the Arctic Ocean off northern Alaska and northwestern Canada.

In July, ''we saw acceleration in loss of ice,'' the U.S. center's Walt Meier told The Associated Press. In recent days the pace has slowed, making a record-breaking final minimum ''less likely but still possible,'' he said.

Scientists say the makeup of the frozen polar sea has shifted significantly the past few years, as thick multiyear ice has given way as the Arctic's dominant form to thin ice that comes and goes with each winter and summer.

The past few years have ''signaled a fundamental change in the character of the ice and the Arctic climate,'' Meier said.

Ironically, the summer melts since 2007 appear to have allowed disintegrating but still thick multiyear ice to drift this year into the relatively narrow channels of the Northwest Passage, the east-west water route through Canada's Arctic islands. Usually impassable channels had been relatively ice-free the past two summers.

''We need some warm temperatures with easterly or southeasterly winds to break up and move this ice to the north,'' Mark Schrader, skipper of the sailboat ''Ocean Watch,'' e-mailed The Associated Press from the west entrance to the passage.

The steel-hulled sailboat, with scientists joining it at stops along the way, is on a 25,000-mile (40,232-kilometer), foundation-financed circumnavigation of the Americas, to view and demonstrate the impact of climate change on the continents' environments.

Environmentalists worry, for example, that the ice-dependent polar bear will struggle to survive as the Arctic cap melts. Schrader reported seeing only one bear, an animal chased from the Arctic shore of Barrow, Alaska, that ''swam close to Ocean Watch on its way out to sea.''

Observation satellites' remote sensors will tell researchers in September whether the polar cap diminished this summer to its smallest size on record. Then the sun will begin to slip below the horizon for several months, and temperatures plunging in the polar darkness will freeze the surface of the sea again, leaving this and other Arctic coastlines in the grip of ice. Most of the sea ice will be new, thinner and weaker annual formations, however.

At a global conference last March in Copenhagen, scientists declared that climate change is occurring faster than had been anticipated, citing the fast-dying Arctic cap as one example. A month later, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted Arctic summers could be almost ice-free within 30 years, not at the century's end as earlier predicted.

Satellite images of ice loss
Satellite images show the loss of the Markham Ice Shelf over the last year

Major ice-shelf loss for Canada 
I-BBC, 3 September 2008

The ice shelves in Canada's High Arctic have lost a colossal area this year, scientists report.

The floating tongues of ice attached to Ellesmere Island, which have lasted for thousands of years, have seen almost a quarter of their cover break away.  One of them, the 50 sq km (20 sq miles) Markham shelf, has completely broken off to become floating sea-ice.  Researchers say warm air temperatures and reduced sea-ice conditions in the region have assisted the break-up.

"These substantial calving events underscore the rapidity of changes taking place in the Arctic," said Trent University's Dr Derek Mueller.

"These changes are irreversible under the present climate."  

Scientists reported in July that substantial slabs of ice had calved from Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, the largest of the Ellesmere shelves.  Similar changes have been seen in the other four shelves.  As well as the complete breakaway of the Markham, the Serson shelf lost two sections totalling an estimated 122 sq km (47 sq miles), and the break-up of the Ward Hunt has continued.

Cold remnants

The shelves themselves are merely remnants of a much larger feature that was once bounded to Ellesmere Island and covered almost 10,000 sq km (3,500 sq miles).  Over the past 100 years, this expanse of ice has retreated by 90%, and at the start of this summer season covered just under 1,000 sq km (400 sq miles).

Much of the area was lost during a warm period in the 1930s and 1940s.  Temperatures in the Arctic are now even higher than they were then, and a period of renewed ice shelf break-up has ensued since 2002.
Unlike much of the floating sea-ice which comes and goes, the shelves contain ice that is up to 4,500 years old.

A rapid sea-ice retreat is being experienced across the Arctic again this year, affecting both the ice attached to the coast and floating in the open ocean.  The floating sea-ice, which would normally keep the shelves hemmed in, has shrunk to just under five million sq km, the second lowest extent recorded since the era of satellite measurement began about 30 years ago.

"Reduced sea-ice conditions and unusually high air temperatures have facilitated the ice shelf losses this summer," said Dr Luke Copland from the University of Ottawa.

"And extensive new cracks across remaining parts of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf mean that it will continue to disintegrate in the coming years."

Loss of ice in the Arctic, and in particular the extensive sea-ice, has global implications. The "white parasol" at the top of the planet reflects energy from the Sun straight back out into space, helping to cool the Earth.

Further loss of Arctic ice will see radiation absorbed by darker seawater and snow-free land, potentially warming the Earth's climate at an even faster rate than current observational data indicates.

28 August 2008
Arctic ice 'is at tipping point'
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Fishing boat in ice
Scientists suggest the Arctic is already at a climatic "tipping point"

Arctic sea ice has shrunk to the second smallest extent since satellite records began, US scientists have revealed.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) says that the ice-covered area has fallen below its 2005 level, which was the second lowest on record.

Melting has occurred earlier in the year than usual, meaning that the iced area could become even smaller than last September, the lowest recorded.

Researchers say the Arctic is now at a climatic "tipping point".

"We could very well be in that quick slide downwards in terms of passing a tipping point," said Mark Serreze, a senior scientist at the Colorado-based NSIDC.

"It's tipping now. We're seeing it happen now," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Under covered

The area covered by ice on 26 August measured 5.26 million sq km (2.03 million sq miles), just below the 2005 low of 5.32 million sq km (2.05 million sq).

But the 2005 low came in late September; and with the 2008 graph pointing downwards, the NSIDC team believes last year's record could still be broken even though air temperatures, both in the Arctic and globally, have been lower than last year.

Last September, the ice covered just 4.13 million sq km (1.59 million sq miles), the smallest extent seen since satellite imaging began 30 years ago. The 1980 figure was 7.8 million sq km (3 million sq miles).

The 2008 graph shows a steeper decline than at the same time last year

Most of the cover consists of relatively thin ice that formed within a single winter and melts more easily than ice that accumulated over many years.

Irrespective of whether the 2007 record falls in the next few weeks, the long-term trend is obvious, scientists said; the ice is declining more sharply than even a decade ago, and the Arctic region will progressively turn to open water in summers.

A few years ago, scientists were predicting ice-free Arctic summers by about 2080.

Then computer models started projecting earlier dates, around 2030 to 2050; and some researchers now believe it could happen within five years.

That will bring economic opportunities, including the chance to drill for oil and gas. Burning that oil and gas would increase levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere still further.

The absence of summer ice would have impacts locally and globally.

The iconography of polar bears unable to find ice is by now familiar; but other species, including seals, would also face drastic changes to their habitat, as would many Arctic peoples.

Globally, the Arctic melt will reinforce warming because open water absorbs more of the Sun's energy than ice does.

A medium-sized iceberg is grounded in a cove near St. John's. Medium-sized bergs range from 16 to 45 meters tall above the waterline and up to 120 meters long, with seven-eighths of their total mass below the surface. 

'Another Titanic Can Always Happen' 
The Coast Guard's Groton-based International Ice Patrol works off the coast of Newfoundland to track potentially deadly icebergs 

By Jennifer Grogan    
Published on 5/25/2008 

St. John's, Newfoundland - Scott Baumgartner looked out the aircraft window at the tops of clouds and spoke into his headset.

”Zero visibility.

”Wait, right side.

”About three miles, a couple of bergs.”

Crew members from the U.S. Coast Guard International Ice Patrol like Marine Science Technician Third Class Baumgartner track icebergs near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland during the “ice season,” the time when icebergs drift into the trans-Atlantic shipping lanes. Their goal is to prevent ships from colliding with these icebergs.

”Another Titanic can always happen,” Senior Chief Petty Officer John Stengel said. “And obviously, saving lives is why we're here.”

Last week, the crew was flying over a 500,000-square-mile area to look for icebergs and relay that information back to their operations center at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus in Groton. The Ice Patrol then disseminates warnings to mariners traveling between major ports in Europe and North America.  Baumgartner put his face inches from the window and tried to determine the icebergs' size and shape to mark in his log.

”I never saw an iceberg on the right. They must have been real close,” a radar operator said. The radar system he was looking at is angled, creating a blind spot close to the plane and underneath it.

In a few seconds, the break in the cloud cover was gone.

”This is how a lot of patrols are, looking at clouds,” Baumgartner said.

The number of icebergs that survive the two- to three-year trip south from West Greenland varies annually, depending on atmospheric and oceanographic conditions.  Eleven made it in 2005, none in 2006 and 324 in 2007. This year, more than 900 icebergs have entered the shipping lanes so far, making it already one of the top 20 years in the past century for the most icebergs. The season typically runs from February to July. 
About 1,000 icebergs crossed into the lanes south of 48 degrees North Latitude in 1912 - the year the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank.  A small mark on the radar screen brightened, signaling a possible ship or iceberg. The radar operator zoomed in.  Bright spots that rock back and forth are ships. Ships move with the waves. Icebergs, because of their large size, do not.

”Got it,” Avionics Electrical Technician Chief Pat Mudge said, examining the image.

”Berg,” Mudge said.

”Berg,” Marine Science Technician First Class Horace Lee Brittle Jr. said, looking at Mudge's screen.

Another mark brightened, but this time Mudge could not tell whether it was a ship or an iceberg. Small icebergs and small fishing boats can be hard to distinguish.  He needed a closer look.


The plane turned and descended.  Brittle told Kevin Whalen, a cadet from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy who was sitting by the window, to keep his eyes open.

”It's going to come down on the left side. Two miles, 10 o'clock position,” said Brittle, who is stationed in Groton.

”I think I spot a berg off the left wing,” Whalen reported.

”Got binoculars on it? Get a reticle,” Brittle said, instructing the intern to use the scale inside the binoculars to read the iceberg's size.

It was Whalen's first time searching for icebergs so Brittle ran to his side to look too. He did not see anything.  The target showed up only intermittently on radar.

”Marine life.”

”Returning to flight track.”

The crew - four from the Ice Patrol, eight from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City, N.C., who were training three from Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater, Fla., and the cadet working as an intern - arrived in St. John's May 14. They canceled the patrols for the first two days because of dense fog and a broken radar system on the plane.  Boarding the plane for the first patrol on May 17, the crew put on headsets to communicate.  It was about 110 decibels inside, the same level of noise as a chain saw or a rock concert. The floor vibrated from the plane's engines.  The HC-130H was built for cargo, not for comfort.  The crew flew over the southern, highest-priority portion of their operational area to see how far south the icebergs had drifted. The Ice Patrol charts need to reflect where mariners should travel to avoid icebergs.

The Ice Patrol staff draw a black line around all the icebergs on the chart. The line shows the “limit of all known ice” or LAKI. Ships in the area that stay outside the line should not encounter icebergs. There were 389 icebergs still within the LAKI as of the patrol trip. Others seen earlier in the season had melted in warmer ocean temperatures or had broken apart with the constant pounding of the waves.

”If you miss something, if an iceberg gets by you, now there's something south of the limit,” said Avionics Electrical Technician First Class Scott Bernard, one of the radar operators from Elizabeth City. “If someone hits it, that destroys our credibility.”

That line, Bernard said, is “where you stake your reputation.”

Stengel flipped open his white binder to review his notes for his “Ice Message” back to Groton.

”Good patrol of southern LAKI,” he wrote. “Patrol shortened due to fuel concerns for landing. Aircraft and sensors performed well.”

Baumgartner and Yeoman First Class David Phillips typed up the iceberg sightings from the paper logs and computer records, while Whalen observed to learn the procedure.  Staff at the Ice Patrol Operations Center in Groton were waiting to enter the iceberg locations into their computer model. That information, along with ocean current and wind data, predicts where the icebergs will drift and is used to then estimate the limit of all known ice.

Mariners can listen to this information in the form of an “Ice Bulletin” over the radio, view it online or receive the chart as a fax.

Stengel, the tactical commander for the deployment, tallied the final statistics. He counted seven icebergs and five unidentifiable objects from the day's patrol of 1,540 nautical miles. The five would still be entered into the model to err on the side of caution; they could have been icebergs.  Normally the patrols find only a few icebergs at the southernmost boundary of their operations.

The Ice Patrol has searched for icebergs near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland every year since 1914, except during World Wars I and II.  An international treaty says that ship captains must use the Ice Patrol charts. But nothing requires ships to go around the icebergs. They can sail through them if they want to.  Skyrocketing fuel costs have given mariners an added incentive this year to take shortcuts through iceberg-infested waters.

”With fuel prices today, they want their transit to be economical, so they travel along the line of many bergs,” said Cmdr. Scott Rogerson, commanding officer of the Ice Patrol. “I worry about ships that say 'The fuel prices are too high, time is of the essence and I'm going to blast right through there.'”

There has not been a reported loss of life or property from collision with an iceberg from ships that have heeded the Ice Patrol's warnings and steered clear of the area with icebergs.  Rogerson is frequently asked why the Ice Patrol is still needed today, given the radars and lookouts on ships.

”Icebergs are still a threat, even with good lookouts and good radars,” he said. “During stormy conditions or during fog, both their radars and lookouts are possibly not going to be able to see everything that's out there.”

”We don't want ships navigating through and around icebergs,” he added. “We would rather they go around completely because they're so difficult to detect.”

Given the number of icebergs this year and the temptation to cut through them, Rogerson said, “it could be only a matter of time before a ship collides with one.” 


Profiles Of Ice Patrol Members 
Published on 5/25/2008 
NAME : Senior Chief Petty Officer John Stengel, 42

”It's a great team,” Stengel said. “We have good camaraderie and a good command.”

”It's a small unit with a big mission.”

NAME : Marine Science Technician First Class Horace Lee Brittle Jr., 34

”I still have to pinch myself occasionally to know that this is what I do,” he said. “It has sort of come full circle, going from an interest to a mission.”

”I take my job very seriously,” he added. “Even with advances in technology, the danger still exists for iceberg collisions. We have to make sure we don't have another severe loss of life like on the Titanic. That's the reason for our existence.”

NAME : Marine Science Technician Third Class Scott Baumgartner, 31

”I like to get into my work,” Baumgartner said.

He said drinking the water was like “tasting a bit of history.” Literally.

Glaciers are formed by thousands of years of snowfall accumulation, which eventually compresses into ice. Between 10,000 and 15,000 icebergs break off annually, primarily from 20 major glaciers in West Greenland. When those icebergs pass south of 48 degrees North latitude they have reached the trans-Atlantic shipping lanes.  Hunting them is like being on a safari, Baumgartner said.

”They're big, powerful behemoths,” he said. “They make their path in the water until they melt away. To watch that happen, to me is a lot of fun.”

When the ice observer in the other window finds a “very large” iceberg- more than 75 meters above the water and greater than 200 meters long- Baumgartner is tempted to jump up from his position to check it out. 
And when it is time to turn over his watch to someone else, he finds it hard to walk away.

”You don't want to get out of the window,” he said. “You want to stay in there and see them all.”

He said he has two things left to do involving icebergs- go to Greenland to see where they originate and dive near one so he can see if seven-eighths of its mass really is below the water's surface.

NAME : Yeoman First Class David Phillips, 43

”You see something you've never seen before in your life,” he said, referring to the icebergs below.

When he joined the Coast Guard, he thought he would be involved with the more typical search-and-rescue missions.

”The people are great to work with and it's just a good time,” he said. “It's the best job I've had yet.”

NAME : Kevin Whalen, 21; Cadet at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy studying marine and environmental science; summer intern with the International Ice Patrol

”I said, 'No, I'm the iceman,'” Whalen said, referring to Maverick's competitor to be the top student in training. “He flies ice cold. Ultimately he is the top gun.”

But Whalen does not think the nickname will stick.

”I can't see any of my friends calling me that back at the academy,” he said with a laugh.

- Jennifer Grogan   

Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts
Published: October 2, 2007

The Arctic ice cap shrank so much this summer that waves briefly lapped along two long-imagined Arctic shipping routes, the Northwest Passage over Canada and the Northern Sea Route over Russia.

Over all, the floating ice dwindled to an extent unparalleled in a century or more, by several estimates.

Now the six-month dark season has returned to the North Pole. In the deepening chill, new ice is already spreading over vast stretches of the Arctic Ocean. Astonished by the summer’s changes, scientists are studying the forces that exposed one million square miles of open water — six Californias — beyond the average since satellites started measurements in 1979.

At a recent gathering of sea-ice experts at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Hajo Eicken, a geophysicist, summarized it this way: “Our stock in trade seems to be going away.”

Scientists are also unnerved by the summer’s implications for the future, and their ability to predict it.

Complicating the picture, the striking Arctic change was as much a result of ice moving as melting, many say. A new study, led by Son Nghiem at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and appearing this week in Geophysical Research Letters, used satellites and buoys to show that winds since 2000 had pushed huge amounts of thick old ice out of the Arctic basin past Greenland. The thin floes that formed on the resulting open water melted quicker or could be shuffled together by winds and similarly expelled, the authors said.

The pace of change has far exceeded what had been estimated by almost all the simulations used to envision how the Arctic will respond to rising concentrations of greenhouse gases linked to global warming. But that disconnect can cut two ways. Are the models overly conservative? Or are they missing natural influences that can cause wide swings in ice and temperature, thereby dwarfing the slow background warming?

The world is paying more attention than ever.

Russia, Canada and Denmark, prompted in part by years of warming and the ice retreat this year, ratcheted up rhetoric and actions aimed at securing sea routes and seabed resources.

Proponents of cuts in greenhouse gases cited the meltdown as proof that human activities are propelling a slide toward climate calamity.

Arctic experts say things are not that simple. More than a dozen experts said in interviews that the extreme summer ice retreat had revealed at least as much about what remains unknown in the Arctic as what is clear. Still, many of those scientists said they were becoming convinced that the system is heading toward a new, more watery state, and that human-caused global warming is playing a significant role.

For one thing, experts are having trouble finding any records from Russia, Alaska or elsewhere pointing to such a widespread Arctic ice retreat in recent times, adding credence to the idea that humans may have tipped the balance. Many scientists say the last substantial warming in the region, peaking in the 1930s, mainly affected areas near Greenland and Scandinavia.

Some scientists who have long doubted that a human influence could be clearly discerned in the Arctic’s changing climate now agree that the trend is hard to ascribe to anything else.

“We used to argue that a lot of the variability up to the late 1990s was induced by changes in the winds, natural changes not obviously related to global warming,” said John Michael Wallace, a scientist at the University of Washington. “But changes in the last few years make you have to question that. I’m much more open to the idea that we might have passed a point where it’s becoming essentially irreversible.”

Experts say the ice retreat is likely to be even bigger next summer because this winter’s freeze is starting from such a huge ice deficit. At least one researcher, Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., projects a blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013.

In essence, Arctic waters may be behaving more like those around Antarctica, where a broad fringe of sea ice builds each austral winter and nearly disappears in the summer. (Reflecting the different geography and dynamics at the two poles, there has been a slight increase in sea-ice area around Antarctica in recent decades.)

While open Arctic waters could be a boon for shipping, fishing and oil exploration, an annual seesawing between ice and no ice could be a particularly harsh jolt to polar bears.

Many Arctic researchers warned that it was still far too soon to start sending container ships over the top of the world. “Natural variations could turn around and counteract the greenhouse-gas-forced change, perhaps stabilizing the ice for a bit,” said Marika Holland, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

But, she added, that will not last. “Eventually the natural variations would again reinforce the human-driven change, perhaps leading to even more rapid retreat,” Dr. Holland said. “So I wouldn’t sign any shipping contracts for the next 5 to 10 years, but maybe the next 20 to 30.”

While experts debate details, many agree that the vanishing act of the sea ice this year was probably caused by superimposed forces including heat-trapping clouds and water vapor in the air, as well as the ocean-heating influence of unusually sunny skies in June and July. Other important factors were warm winds flowing from Siberia around a high-pressure system parked over the ocean. The winds not only would have melted thin ice but also pushed floes offshore where currents and winds could push them out of the Arctic Ocean.

But another factor was probably involved, one with roots going back to about 1989. At that time, a periodic flip in winds and pressure patterns over the Arctic Ocean, called the Arctic Oscillation, settled into a phase that tended to stop ice from drifting in a gyre for years, so it could thicken, and instead carried it out to the North Atlantic.

The new NASA study of expelled old ice builds on previous measurements showing that the proportion of thick, durable floes that were at least 10 years old dropped to 2 percent this spring from 80 percent in the spring of 1987, said Ignatius G. Rigor, an ice expert at the University of Washington and an author of the new NASA-led study.

Without the thick ice, which can endure months of nonstop summer sunshine, more dark open water and thin ice absorbed solar energy, adding to melting and delaying the winter freeze.

The thinner fresh-formed ice was also more vulnerable to melting from heat held near the ocean surface by clouds and water vapor. This may be where the rising influence of humans on the global climate system could be exerting the biggest regional influence, said Jennifer A. Francis of Rutgers University.

Other Arctic experts, including Dr. Maslowski in Monterey and Igor V. Polyakov at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, also see a role in rising flows of warm water entering the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia, and in deep currents running north from the Atlantic Ocean near Scandinavia.

A host of Arctic scientists say it is too soon to know if the global greenhouse effect has already tipped the system to a condition in which sea ice in summers will be routinely limited to a few clotted passageways in northern Canada.

But at the university in Fairbanks — where signs of northern warming include sinkholes from thawing permafrost around its Arctic research center — Dr. Eicken and other experts are having a hard time conceiving a situation that could reverse the trends.

“The Arctic may have another ace up her sleeve to help the ice grow back,” Dr. Eicken said. “But from all we can tell right now, the means for that are quite limited.”

Arctic Showing Ominous Signs Of Global Warming; Drastic ice melt may have passed tipping point, scientists fear 
By Seth Borenstein, AP Science Writer    
Published on 12/12/2007 

Washington — An already relentless melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer, a warning sign that some scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. One even speculated that summer sea ice would be gone in five years.

Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier, according to new NASA satellite data obtained by The Associated Press.

“The Arctic is screaming,” said Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data center in Boulder, Colo.

Just last year, two top scientists surprised their colleagues by projecting that the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of 2040.

This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”

So scientists in recent days have been asking themselves these questions: Was the record melt seen all over the Arctic in 2007 a blip amid relentless and steady warming? Or has everything sped up to a new climate cycle that goes beyond the worst-case scenarios presented by computer models?

“The Arctic is often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming,” said Zwally, who as a teenager hauled coal. “Now, as a sign of climate warming, the canary has died. It's time to start getting out of the coal mines.”

It is the burning of coal, oil and other fossil fuels that produces carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases responsible for man-made global warming. For the past several days, government diplomats have been debating in Bali, Indonesia, the outlines of a new climate treaty calling for tougher limits on these gases.

What happens in the Arctic has implications for the rest of the world. Faster melting there means eventual sea level rise and more immediate changes in winter weather because of less sea ice.

In the United States, a weakened Arctic blast moving south to collide with moist air from the Gulf of Mexico can mean less rain and snow in some areas, including the drought-stricken Southeast, said Michael MacCracken, a former federal climate scientist who now heads the nonprofit Climate Institute. Some regions, like Colorado, would likely get extra rain or snow.

More than 18 scientists told the AP that they were surprised by the level of ice melt this year.

“I don't pay much attention to one year ... but this year the change is so big, particularly in the Arctic sea ice, that you've got to stop and say, 'What is going on here?' You can't look away from what's happening here,” said Waleed Abdalati, NASA's chief of cyrospheric sciences. “This is going to be a watershed year.”

Records for Arctic melt in 2007 were shattered in the following ways:

• 552 billion tons of ice melted this summer from the Greenland ice sheet, according to preliminary satellite data to be released by NASA today. That's 15 percent more than the annual average summer melt, beating 2005's record.

• A record amount of surface ice was lost over Greenland this year, 12 percent more than the previous worst year, 2005, according to data the University of Colorado released Monday. That's nearly quadruple the amount that melted just 15 years ago. It's an amount of water that could cover Washington, D.C., a half-mile deep, researchers calculated.

• The surface area of summer sea ice floating in the Arctic Ocean this summer was nearly 23 percent below the previous record. The dwindling sea ice already has affected wildlife, with 6,000 walruses coming ashore in northwest Alaska in October for the first time in recorded history. Another first: the Northwest Passage was open to navigation.

• Still to be released is NASA data showing the remaining Arctic sea ice to be unusually thin, another record. That makes it more likely to melt in future summers. Combining the shrinking area covered by sea ice with the new thinness of the remaining ice, scientists calculate that the overall volume of ice is half of 2004's total.

• Alaska's frozen permafrost is warming, though not quite thawing yet. But temperature measurements 66 feet deep in the frozen soil rose nearly four-tenths of a degree from 2006 to 2007, according to measurements from the University of Alaska. While that may not sound like much, “it's very significant,” said University of Alaska professor Vladimir Romanovsky.

• Surface temperatures in the Arctic Ocean this summer were the highest in 77 years of record-keeping, with some places 8 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, according to research to be released today by University of Washington's Michael Steele.

Greenland, in particular, is a significant bellwether. Most of its surface is covered by ice. If it completely melted — something key scientists think would likely take centuries, not decades — it could add more than 22 feet to the world's sea level.

However, for nearly the past 30 years, the data pattern of its ice sheet melt has zigzagged. A bad year, like 2005, would be followed by a couple of lesser years.

According to that pattern, 2007 shouldn't have been a major melt year, but it was, said Konrad Steffen of the University of Colorado, which gathered the latest data.

“I'm quite concerned,” he said. “Now I look at 2008. Will it be even warmer than the past year?”

Other new data, from a NASA satellite, measures ice volume. NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke, reviewing it and other Greenland numbers, concluded: “We are quite likely entering a new regime.”

Melting of sea ice and Greenland's ice sheets also alarms scientists because they become part of a troubling spiral. White sea ice reflects about 80 percent of the sun's heat off Earth, NASA's Zwally said. When there is no sea ice, about 90 percent of the heat goes into the ocean which then warms everything else up. Warmer oceans then lead to more melting.

“That feedback is the key to why the models predict that the Arctic warming is going to be faster,” Zwally said. “It's getting even worse than the models predicted.”

NASA scientist James Hansen, the lone-wolf researcher often called the godfather of global warming, on Thursday was to tell scientists and others at the American Geophysical Union scientific in San Francisco that in some ways Earth has hit one of his so-called tipping points, based on Greenland melt data.

“We have passed that and some other tipping points in the way that I will define them,” Hansen said in an e-mail. “We have not passed a point of no return. We can still roll things back in time — but it is going to require a quick turn in direction.”

Last year, Cecilia Bitz at the University of Washington and Marika Holland at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado startled their colleagues when they predicted an Arctic free of sea ice in just a few decades. Both say they are surprised by the dramatic melt of 2007.

Bitz, unlike others at NASA, believes that “next year we'll be back to normal, but we'll be seeing big anomalies again, occurring more frequently in the future.” And that normal, she said, is still a “relentless decline” in ice.

On the Net:

National Snow and Ice Data Center on 2007 Arctic sea ice:

NASA's “Tipping Points” panel and slide show materials:

27 March 2009 I-BBC
Greenland icebergs
Warmer temperatures are making access to the Arctic easier

Russian 'Arctic military' plan
Russia has announced plans to set up a military force to protect its interests in the Arctic.

In a document published on its national security council's website, Moscow says it expects the Arctic to become its main resource base by 2020.

While the strategy is thought to have been approved in September, it has only now been made public.

Moscow's ambitions are likely to cause concern among other countries with claims to the Arctic.

'Military security'

The document foresees the Arctic becoming Russia's main source of oil and gas within the next decade.

In order to protect its assets, Moscow says one of its main goals will be the establishment of troops "capable of ensuring military security" in the region.

With climate change opening up the possibility of making drilling viable in previously inaccessible areas, the Arctic has gained in strategic importance for Russia, says the BBC's James Rodgers in Moscow.

Russian flag planted on Arctic seabed, 3 Aug 07
Russia's moment of Arctic triumph in 2007 was captured on film

However, Russia's arctic ambitions have already put those with competing claims on the defensive.

In 2007, a Russian expedition planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole.

Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the United States, all of whom have an Arctic coastline, dispute the sovereignty over parts of the region.

With an estimated 90 billion untapped barrels of oil, Russia's strategy is likely to be scrutinised carefully by its neighbours in the far north.

Treaty on Ice 

Published: June 23, 2008

WITH the Arctic ice melting, anticipated increases in Arctic shipping, tourism and economic activity, and Russia’s flag-planting at the North Pole last summer, there has been much talk in the press about a “race to the Arctic” and even some calls for a new treaty to govern the “lawless” Arctic region.

We should all cool down. While there may be a need to expand cooperation in some areas, like search and rescue, there is already an extensive legal framework governing the region. The five countries bordering the Arctic Ocean — the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia — have made clear their commitment to observe these international legal rules. In fact, top officials from these nations met last month in Greenland to acknowledge their role in protecting the Arctic Ocean and to put to rest the notion that there is a Wild West-type rush to claim and plunder its natural resources.

Existing international law already provides a comprehensive set of rules governing use of the world’s oceans, including the Arctic. The law enshrines navigational rights and freedoms for military and commercial vessels. It also specifies the rights of coastal nations in offshore marine areas. Setting aside the unfortunate flag-planting on the North Pole (a stunt with no legal significance), Russia has been following international procedures for identifying the legal extent of its boundaries, including its continental shelf.

Other solid international rules also apply in the Arctic. In instances where the maritime claims of coastal nations overlap, international law sets forth principles for them to apply in resolving their disputes. As for protecting the marine environment, the law spells out both national and internationally agreed pollution control measures.

As one example, the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization has produced treaties that limit pollution from various sources, including ships and ocean dumping. It has also developed safety guidelines for ship operations in hard-to-navigate ice-covered areas. What’s more, the Arctic Council, an eight-nation diplomatic forum, is working to strengthen its already existing guidelines on oil and gas activities.

Some nongovernmental organizations and academics say that we need an “Arctic treaty” along the lines of the treaty system that governs Antarctica. Though it sounds nice, such a treaty would be unnecessary and inappropriate. The situations in the Arctic and the Antarctic are hardly analogous. The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959, governs a continent surrounded by oceans — a place where it was necessary to suspend claims to sovereignty in order to promote peace and scientific research. The Arctic, by contrast, is an ocean surrounded by continents. Its ocean is already subject to international rules, including rules related to marine scientific research, and its land has long been divided up, so there are few disputes over boundaries.

So what should the United States do about the Arctic? For starters, it should do nothing to advance a new comprehensive treaty for the region. Instead, it should take full advantage of the existing rules by joining the Law of the Sea Convention. The convention, now before the Senate, would codify and maximize international recognition of United States rights to one of the largest and most resource-rich continental shelves in the world — extending at least 600 miles off Alaska.

Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia are parties to the convention and they are already acting to protect and maximize their rights. The United States should do the same. Signing on would do much more to protect American security and interests in the Arctic than pursuing the possibility of a treaty that we really don’t need.

Plain sailing on the Northwest Passage
By Kathryn Westcott , BBC News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 September 2007, 12:18 GMT 13:18 UK

Satellite photo of ice cover over Arctic poll - 2007 (Source: European Space Agency)
This week, Europe's space agency (Esa) reported that the shrinking of Arctic ice had opened the fabled Northwest Passage, clearing a long-sought, but until recently impassable, route between Europe and Asia.

The search for a route from the Atlantic around the top of North America and into the Pacific consumed explorers for centuries. Now a growing band of sailing adventurers are traversing the waterway in record times.

This summer, the agency says the passage was open for the first time in history. Indeed, 2007 was an active year for sailors in the region, according to Peter Semotiuk, who helps mariners navigate their small craft along the route.

Every evening in the summer months, the ham-radio operator provides detailed weather and ice reports, tracks each boat's position and passes on news from other sailors to each of the boats out in the wilderness.

Mr Semotiuk has operated his single-band sailor's radio network for the past two decades from his hometown of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, Canada, a port in the middle of the Northwest Passage.

'Wide open'

The Manhattan
In 1969 the SS Manhattan became the first commercial ship to travel the Northwest Passage

One recent summer, he helped co-ordinate a rescue mission for four boats that had become stuck in the ice.

In contrast to this year's lack of ice, he described 2005 as a "tough" year. Eight boats tried to get through, but only two succeeded and only with help from ice-breakers.

Mr Semotiuk, who has now signed off for the winter, told the BBC News website that a third boat this season - a lightweight catamaran crewed by a French and Belgian team - had just successfully navigated the full length of the 5,150km (3,200-mile) waterway.

This is the first time the journey has been completed entirely by sail, says Mr Semotiuk. Not so long ago, he says this journey would have been impossible because of the ice.

There has been a marked shrinkage in ice cover in the region in recent years, but this year it was extreme, according to Europe's space agency.

Mr Semotiuk, who completed the journey himself in 1988, said: "This summer the passage was largely wide open.

"It's a very different picture to say 20 years ago, when I travelled the length of the passage.

"The owner of the boat I was travelling on had been trying to get through for five years. On the sixth year, we were successful, although we had to wait for two weeks in the central Arctic for the ice to break."

Plain sailing

Then, Mr Semotiuk would have been making a journey that only the most intrepid traveller would have dared to undertake.

In 1905, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to successfully navigate the Northwest Passage, in a wooden sailboat.

Other ships that had tried earlier than this had been forced to abandon the quest, had disappeared or had been "crushed like a nut on the shoals and buried in the ice", as one 20th-century Canadian captain put it.

But since then, about 110 boats had successfully completed the trip, said Mr Semotiuk. Thirty of those were recreational boats, most of which completed the journey in the past decade.

And, where once the journey could have taken years, with sailors being forced to overwinter in ports along the passage due to the ice conditions, this year it was possible to complete the journey in record time.

Roger Swanson, a 76-year-old pig farmer turned yachtsman from Minnesota, completed the journey last week after just 45 days.

Speaking to journalists, he described the journey as smooth sailing.

"There was hardly any ice," Mr Swanson told the Wall Street Journal.

This was all very different to his previous attempt in 2005, when he was forced to turn around, vowing never to return.

'No challenge'

A father-and-son British team also completed the journey this year.

"One of the British sailors, James Allison, said he felt a bit of a fraud after completing the trip because there wasn't any ice," said Mr Semotiuk.

"He's correct to the point that there really wasn't any challenge, so to speak, other than the cold."

Mr Semotiuk expects a greater number of sailors to turn up next season.

"But that's not to say the risks are not there," he said. "We could see more icebergs in the eastern Arctic as more glaciers melt off Greenland and off the Canadian east coast."

The Northwest Passage was the goal of Arctic explorers from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Efforts to discover a trade route through or around North America began in the 1490s with the voyages of John Cabot.

Along the route, there are salutary reminders of those who lost their lives searching for what has been described as the holy grail of mariners.

A number of graves belonging to crew from an ill-fated expedition headed by Sir John Franklin, who sailed from England in the spring of 1848, are a reminder of the region's inhospitable past.

Franklin's two ships, the Erebus and Terror, and 129 men disappeared, leaving behind an enduring mystery that remains unsolved.

The commercial implications for the waterway could now be great.

"But, for all this", says Mr Semotiuk wistfully, "I hope the fabled Northwest Passage doesn't become spoilt."

Arctic sea route opens
Sat Sep 15, 8:10 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - The Arctic's Northwest Passage has opened up fully because of melting sea ice, clearing a long-sought but historically impassable route between Europe and Asia, the European Space Agency said.  Sea ice has shrunk in the Arctic to its lowest level since satellite measurements began 30 years ago, ESA said, showing images of the now "fully navigable" route between the Atlantic and the Pacific.  A shipping route through the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic has been touted as a possible cheaper option to the Panama Canal for many shippers.

"We have seen the ice-covered area drop to just around 3 million square km," said Leif Toudal Pedersen of the Danish National Space Centre, describing the drop in the Arctic sea ice as "extreme."

The figure was about 1 million sq km (386,870 sq miles) less than previous lows in 2005 and 2006, Pedersen added.  The Northeast Passage through the Russian Arctic remained partially blocked, but in the light of the latest developments it may well open sooner than expected, Pedersen said.  Polar regions are very sensitive to climate change, ESA said, noting that some scientists have predicted the Arctic would be ice free as early as 2040.

Almost all experts say global warming, stoked by human use of fossil fuels, is happening about twice as fast in the Arctic as elsewhere on the planet. Once exposed, dark ground or sea soak up far more heat than ice and snow.

September and March generally mark the annual minimum and maximum extent respectively of Arctic sea ice.  The ESA announcement on its Web site came amid a scramble for sovereignty rights in the Arctic.

Russia, which recently planted its national flag on the seabed beneath the ice of the North Pole, has been staking its claim to a large chunk of the resource-rich Arctic region.  Countries such as Russia are hoping for new shipping routes or to find oil and gas.

Canada has also been pressing its Arctic sovereignty claim and has announced plans for a deep-water port at Nanisivik near the eastern entrance of the Northwest Passage, which will allow it to refuel its military patrol ships.

Vast ice island trapped in Arctic
By David Shukman
Science & environment correspondent, BBC News
Last Updated: Friday, 31 August 2007, 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK

An island of ice the size of Manhattan has drifted into a remote channel and jammed itself in.

The Ayles Ice Island changed the Arctic map by breaking free from the Canadian coast two years ago.  Scientists have been tracking the progress of this monster iceberg amid fears that it could edge west towards oil and gas installations off Alaska.  The creation of the island is seen by many scientists as a key indicator of the rapid warming of the Arctic.

Ayles Ice Island is vast, measuring about 16km (10 miles) long and five kilometres (three miles) across.  In May, I joined a team that staged a dramatic landing by ski-plane on to the island itself to carry out the first scientific analysis.

See a map of the region

Satellite pictures monitored by the Canadian Ice Service show how it has drifted along the coast (310km since May) and is now wedged into the Sverdrup Channel, an inlet between two of the Queen Elizabeth Islands that make up the northernmost limits of the Canadian High Arctic.

No danger

One of the scientists on the May expedition, Dr Luke Copland, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa, says this year's unusually low concentrations of sea-ice - which freezes and thaws with the seasons - may explain how the ice island ended up in its current position.

Camera crew (BBC)
The BBC visited the ice island in May of this year
However, given the potential hazard of such a vast block of ice, this may be the safest outcome for the time being.

Dr Copland told me: "The main message now is that the Ayles Ice Island is out of the danger area for the oil rigs in the Beaufort Sea. Now that it has moved out of the wide open Arctic Ocean and into the Queen Elizabeth Islands it is likely to stay stuck in there."

During the expedition, Dr Copland planted a satellite beacon to provide the most accurate possible track of the island's movements.

Sadly the beacon has now stopped working - either because it has run out of battery power or more likely because its radio path to the satellites above is somehow obscured.

Dr Copland said: "The fact that we were receiving partial signals from the beacon suggests that something was blocking it. The most obvious candidates are that it has fallen into a crack in the ice or a pond of meltwater; or been covered over by a snowdrift. Beyond that we can't tell anything.

"There is a possibility that the beacon will come back to life if the obstruction moves out of the way."

In the meantime, satellite pictures will be the only source of news about the fate of the island. And given the rapid retreat of sea-ice - heading for a record low this year - scientists will want to keep a close watch on this new feature of the Arctic geography for years to come.

Click here to see the Canadian Ice Service website tracking the beacon's location.

Map (BBC)
The Ayles Ice Island calved off the Ayles Ice Shelf in August 2005
The calving event was the largest in at least the last 25 years
A total of 87.1 sq km (33.6 sq miles) of ice was lost in this event
The largest piece was 66.4 sq km (25.6 sq miles) in area
This made the slab a little larger than Manhattan
Since calving, the ice island has moved 490km (300 miles)

Earlier Report...

The researchers had to work fast in case the weather closed report.

Arctic Sea Ice Shrinks to Record Low 
By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID, AP Science Writer 

Posted on Aug 17, 4:30 PM EDT 
WASHINGTON (AP) -- There was less sea ice in the Arctic on Friday than ever before on record, and the melting is continuing, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported.

"Today is a historic day," said Mark Serreze, a senior research scientist at the center. "This is the least sea ice we've ever seen in the satellite record and we have another month left to go in the melt season this year."

Satellite measurements showed 2.02 million square miles of ice in the Arctic, falling below the Sept. 21, 2005, record minimum of 2.05 million square miles, the agency said.

Sea ice is particularly low in the East Siberian side of the Arctic and the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, the center reported.

Ice in the Canadian Archipelago is also quite low. Along the Atlantic side of the Arctic Ocean, sea ice extent is not as unusually low, but there is still less than normal, according to the center located in Boulder, Colo.

The snow and ice center is part of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado. It receives support from NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Science Foundation.

Scientists began monitoring the extent of Arctic sea ice in the 1970s when satellite images became available.

The polar regions have long been of concern to climate specialists studying global warming because those regions are expected to feel the impact of climate change sooner and to a greater extent than other areas.

Sea ice in the Arctic helps keep those regions cool by reflecting sunlight that might be absorbed by darker land or ocean surfaces. Exposed to direct sun, for example, instead of reflecting 80 percent of the sunlight, the ocean absorbs 90 percent. That causes the ocean to heat up and raises Arctic temperatures.

Unusually clear sky conditions have prevailed in the Arctic in June and July, promoting more sunshine at the time when the sun is highest in the sky over the region.

The center said this led to an unusually high amount of solar energy being pumped onto the Arctic ice surface, accelerating the melting process. Fairly strong winds also brought in some warm air from the south.

But, Serreze said in a telephone interview, while some natural variability is involved in the melting "we simply can't explain everything through natural processes."

"It is very strong evidence that we are starting to see an effect of greenhouse warming," he said.

The puzzling thing, he said, is that the melting is actually occurring faster than computer climate models have predicted.

Several years ago he would have predicted a complete melt of Arctic sea ice in summer would occur by the year 2070 to 2100, Serreze said. But at the rates now occurring, a complete melt could happen by 2030, he said Friday.

There will still be ice in winter, he said, but it could be gone in summer.

Link to video from I-BBC

Science team lands on Ice Island 

By David Shukman
Eureka High Arctic Weather Station, Canada 
22 May 2007

Scientists in the Arctic have just carried out the first research on a huge iceberg the size of Manhattan.  Some 16km long and 5km wide (10x3 miles), Ayles Ice Island broke away from the Canadian Arctic coast in 2005, but has only recently been identified.

Researchers have now landed on the giant berg with a BBC team and planted a tracking beacon on its surface.  This will allow the island's progress to be monitored as currents push it around the Arctic Ocean.

For 3,000 years, this colossal block of ice was securely fixed to the coast as part of the Ayles Ice Shelf - but now it is drifting free.  Its current location is about 600km (400 miles) from the North Pole, in what is one of the fastest warming regions on Earth.

We approached the island in a small plane. From the air, the vast expanse of white stood out as unusually smooth compared with the much rougher sea ice that forms and thaws with the changing seasons.  The island's surface was judged safe enough to land on - our plane was fitted with skis - and after a bumpy touchdown we ground to a halt, the first expedition of its kind.

Soon the scientists were at work - time was limited with the risk of the weather changing.

First, Dr Derek Mueller of the University of Alaska Fairbanks dug down through the surface layer of snow to reach the mass of the ice below.  Then he and Dr Luke Copland, of the University of Ottawa, carried out a series of measurements using a ground-penetrating radar.   They found that the average of thickness of the ice was 42-45m (138-148ft) - the equivalent of the height of a 10-storey building.

This was slightly thicker than expected.  One implication is that the island is may prove even more durable than predicted - the sheer weight of ice estimated at two billion tonnes may take longer to melt than initially thought.

But according to Dr Copland, the fact that such thick ice could split apart in less than an hour - as it did back in August 2005 - illustrates a more alarming point.

"This shows how climate change can trigger very sudden changes even on a massive scale - when the ice shelf broke away, the rupture registered with the force of a small earthquake," he said.  The records show that this region of the Arctic - the northern coast of Ellesmere Island - has lost 90% of its ice shelves in the past century.

Much of this occurred during the warmer period of the 1940s but then in the cooler decades that followed, some of the ice shelves showed signs of reforming.  According to Dr Mueller, "the difference now is that with the current rate of warming, those ice shelves are likely never to be reconstituted."

Climate scientists predict that the Arctic will continue to warm - so the expectation is that the five remaining ice shelves here could also break away. The effect already is that the map of the Arctic will have to be redrawn.  Before we left, the scientists planted a satellite tracking beacon - because if the island continues to drift to the west, it could threaten the oil and gas installations off Alaska.

In the next few days, a website run by the Canadian Ice Service should mark the beacon's location and show exactly where the island is headed.

Justices Rule On Warming
Hartford Courant editorial
April 4, 2007

For six years, as the case for global warming grew stronger and stronger, the Bush administration fiddled, dismissing the evidence as inconclusive and arguing the government lacks authority to regulate carbon dioxide. A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has finally put the Environmental Protection Agency on notice that it has to do its job and regulate carbon dioxide - or else come up with a good reason why not.

If the White House isn't going to lead on this issue, it should at least get out of the way. Connecticut and 11 other states have already adopted tougher-than-federal standards for cars. The so-called California standards call for fleetwide reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions from new vehicles by 25 percent in model year 2009 and 30 percent in 2016.

Yet the EPA's stance has caused states' efforts to stall.

In the 5-4 ruling issued Monday, the court rejected the EPA's assertion that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases aren't pollutants as defined under the Clean Air Act. It also found that global warming poses a real and imminent danger, meaning that the states and environmental groups suing the EPA over the agency's inaction have grounds to pursue their case.

Finally, the court ruled that the reasons given by the EPA for refusing to regulate greenhouse gases are invalid. It ordered the agency to take another look at the issue and either regulate the gases or come up with a legally sound reason for why it shouldn't.

The Bush administration and the EPA have already wasted too much time. Scientists tell us we have 10 years in which to avert a climate change catastrophe. The debate over whether global warming is real is over. It's time to act responsibly. For starters, that means the administration and the EPA should allow states to move forward and implement the California standards for car emissions.

Supreme Court Takes Up Global Warming Issue For The First Time
By Mark Sherman, Associated Writer
Published on 11/30/2006
Washington — Frustrated by Bush administration inaction on global warming, states and environmentalists urged the Supreme Court Wednesday to declare greenhouse gases to be air pollutants that the government must regulate.

The court's first case on the politically charged topic showed an apparent split between its liberal and conservative justices, with Anthony Kennedy potentially the decisive vote in determining whether the administration must abandon its refusal to treat carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases as air pollutants that imperil public health.

Justice Samuel Alito, who with Chief Justice John Roberts seemed most skeptical of the states' position, said that even in the best of circumstances, the reduction in greenhouse gases would be relatively small.

Justice David Souter indicated that every little bit would help. “They don't have to show that it will stop global warming. Their point is that will reduce the degree of global warming and likely reduce the degree of loss,” he said.

The case involves whether the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from new vehicles under a provision of the Clean Air Act. When a decision comes sometime before July, it could have a significant ripple effect that could extend to power plants as well as states' efforts to impose more stringent regulations on car tailpipe emissions.

Many scientists believe that greenhouse gases, flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, are leading to a warming of the Earth, rising sea levels and other marked ecological changes.

Carbon dioxide, the principal “greenhouse” gas, is produced when fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are burned. One way to reduce those emissions is to have more fuel-efficient cars.

“We own property, 200 miles of coastline, that we're losing,” Massachusetts assistant attorney general James Milkey said on behalf of 12 states and 13 environmental groups that sued EPA.

Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, representing the Bush administration, cautioned justices that EPA regulation could have a significant economic impact on the United States because 85 percent of the U.S. economy is tied to sources of greenhouse gas emissions.

Garre also argued that the EPA was right not to act given “the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding global climate change.”

Unions representing 10,000 EPA employees — more than half the agency's work force — petitioned Congress on Wednesday seeking immediate action to address global warming. The employees also sent a signal to the Supreme Court that most of the agency's rank-and-file disagree with the Bush administration's approach on the issue.

High court divided on warming;  Justices comment on arguments in case against EPA
Zachary Coile, San Francisco Chronicle Washington Bureau
Thursday, November 30, 2006

(11-30) 04:00 PST Washington -- The U.S. Supreme Court, tackling its first case on climate change, appeared divided and somewhat baffled Wednesday over how the government should respond to the warming of the planet.

Justice Antonin Scalia, reflecting the skeptic's view, pressed the lawyer representing Massachusetts and other states about how soon the dire effects of global warming would begin. "When is the predicted cataclysm?" Scalia asked with some sarcasm.

Chief Justice John Roberts, echoing the Bush administration's view, wondered why the United States should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions if China's output of gases will rise sharply in coming years.

Justice Stephen Breyer suggested that a more active response by government could halt global warming.

"Suppose, for example, they regulate this, and before you know it, they start to sequester carbon with the power plants, and before you know it, they decide ethanol might be a good idea, and before you know it, they decide any one of 15 things, each of which has an impact, and lo and behold, Cape Cod is saved," Breyer said. "Now, why is it unreasonable?"

The clashing views gave just a hint of what the justices might decide in Massachusetts vs. Environmental Protection Agency, a case aimed at settling whether the federal government must regulate vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. The ruling, expected by July, also could determine whether California can proceed with its first-in-the-nation law restricting tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases, which is set to take effect in 2009.

Regardless of the court's decision, Congress could soon limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. Sen. Barbara Boxer, the incoming chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said she will begin hearings when Democrats take power in January on measures to curb greenhouse gases from vehicles, power plants and other sources.

"We have to go after carbon and reduce it wherever we find it, and the fact is about a third of the problem is from vehicles," Boxer said Wednesday.

She believes it's likely the high court will stake out a middle ground -- ruling that EPA has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases but that the agency is not required to do so. She added, "If the court were to say that the EPA cannot regulate carbon, then we clearly will have to fix the Clean Air Act."

The case is being watched closely in California. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been sitting for a year on the state's request for a waiver to implement its vehicle emissions rules, even though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has written President Bush several times asking him to approve it. If the high court rules against the states, it could give EPA the legal justification to deny California's request.

"It would be a blow to us," said Linda Adams, secretary of California's Environmental Protection Agency.

The case before the court is being pushed by 12 states, including California, one U.S. territory, three cities and 13 environmental groups that want to prod the Bush administration into regulating greenhouse gases.  In 2003, the federal EPA denied a petition by environmentalists to label four greenhouse gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and hydrofluorocarbons -- as air pollutants. The agency said Congress never intended to address climate change with the Clean Air Act.

The EPA also asserted that even if the agency had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases, it wouldn't because of scientific uncertainty around global warming and because limiting U.S. emissions could hurt the president's ability to persuade other countries to reduce their greenhouse gas output.

Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James Milkey, arguing the case for the petitioning groups, told the justices that EPA's view was a clear misreading of the Clean Air Act, which he said requires the federal agency to regulate any pollutant that "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." The act includes climate and weather in its definition of welfare.

Several justices on the court's liberal wing appeared sympathetic to his view. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg twice noted that the EPA, under former President Bill Clinton, had come to a different conclusion than it expresses now -- that the agency has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide.  Justice John Paul Stevens also took on the agency's assertions about scientific uncertainty on climate change, saying the EPA deliberately ignored key findings from a respected National Academy of Sciences report on global warming.

"In their selective quotations, they left out parts that indicated there was far less uncertainty than the agency purported to find," Stevens said.

Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre, who argued the case for the Bush administration, was left in the uncomfortable position of challenging the consensus among climate scientists that human activity is contributing to global warming.

"Is there uncertainty on the basic proposition that these greenhouse gases contribute to global warming?" Stevens asked.

"Your honor, the (National Academy of Sciences) report says that it is likely that there is a connection, but that it cannot unequivocally be established," Garre said.

However, the justices on the conservative wing of the court expressed sympathy with the administration's view. Justice Samuel Alito suggested EPA was right to propose that United States wait to cut emissions until other countries agreed to the same.

"What is wrong with their view that for the United States to proceed unilaterally would make things worse?" Alito said.

Roberts and Scalia pressed Milkey on whether the states could even prove they were injured by vehicle emissions in order to show legal standing in the case. Milkey responded: "The injury doesn't get any more particular than states losing 200 miles of coastline, both sovereign territory and property we actually own, to rising seas."

Court observers said the key swing vote will be Justice Anthony Kennedy. On Wednesday, he pointed out holes in both sides' arguments, making his opinion tough to gauge.

Boxer said she's betting that Kennedy will be the decisive vote in forcing the administration to take action on climate change.

"I don't think we should lose sight of the fact that Justice Kennedy is from California, and California has an ethic when it comes to the environment that cuts across party lines," Boxer said. "I have to believe he has that ethic. Let's put it this way, I'm praying he does."

The case is Massachusetts vs. EPA, 05-1120.

Science in the court

Justice Antonin Scalia, in a question and answer with Massachusetts Assistant Attorney General James Milkey, showed he hadn't yet seen Al Gore's documentary on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth." Here is an excerpt from the official transcript of Wednesday's hearing as posted on the Supreme Court's Web site:

Justice Scalia: "Mr. Milkey, I had -- my problem is precisely on the impermissible grounds. To be sure, carbon dioxide is a pollutant, and it can be an air pollutant. If we fill this room with carbon dioxide, it could be an air pollutant that endangers health. But I always thought an air pollutant was something different from a stratospheric pollutant, and your claim here is not that the pollution of what we normally call 'air' is endangering health. That isn't, that isn't -- your assertion is that after the pollutant leaves the air and goes up into the stratosphere it is contributing to global warming."

Mr. Milkey: "Respectfully, Your Honor, it is not the stratosphere. It's the troposphere.

Justice Scalia: "Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I'm not a scientist."


Justice Scalia: "That's why I don't want to have to deal with global warming, to tell you the truth."

The justices' views

Comments from several of the justices during Wednesday's oral arguments in the global warming case before the Supreme Court:

"There's a difference between the scientific status of the harm from lead emissions from vehicles that - when you have lead in the gasoline, to the status, the status of scientific knowledge with respect to the impact on global warming today. Those are two very different levels of uncertainty."

Chief Justice John Roberts

"Is it an air pollutant that endangers health? I think it has to endanger health by reason of polluting the air, and this does not endanger health by reason of polluting the air at all."

Justice Antonin Scalia

"I find it interesting that the scientists who worked on that report said there were a good many omissions that would have indicated that there wasn't nearly the uncertainty that the agency described."

Justice John Paul Stevens

"They don't have to show that it will stop global warming. Their point is that it will reduce the degree of global warming and likely reduce the degree of loss, if it is only by 2 1/2 percent. What's wrong with that?"

Justice David Souter

"And so the reduction that you could achieve under the best of circumstances with these regulations would be a small portion... would it not?"

Justice Samuel Alito

"... how far will you get if all that's going to happen is it goes back and then EPA says our resources are constrained and we're not going to spend the money (to regulate greenhouse gases)?"

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

"Now what is it in the law that says that somehow a person cannot go to an agency and say we want you to do your part? Would you be up here saying the same thing if we're trying to regulate child pornography and it turns out that anyone with a computer can get pornography elsewhere? I don't think so."

Justice Stephen Breyer

Read the case transcript from day one here:
High court opens greenhouse gas case arguments

By JILL BODACH, Hour Staff Writer
November 30, 2006

REGION — The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday regarding whether the Bush administration should be made to adjust its handling of global warming threats.

Connecticut is one of 12 states participating in the lawsuit brought forward by Massachusetts. More than a dozen environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club, are also involved in the suit which contends that the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, should regulate the amount of carbon dioxide —
often described as a major contributor to global warming — that comes from cars.

The position of the Bush administration is that the EPA lacks the power under the Clean Air Act to impose such a regulation. Even if they had that power, the agency contends that it would still be a matter of its discretion how to implement those regulations.

Initial debate Wednesday attempted to gauge just how much harm would result if the Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate greenhouse gases from new vehicles. The result, according to James Milkey, an assistant attorney general for the state of Massachusetts, would be "ongoing harm" to the environment.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said that the future of this case effects "nothing less than the survival of the Earth as we know it."

Earlier this year, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a report stating that warmer fall and winter temperatures in the Northeast are a sign that global warming is not just a future threat, but a very current one.  According to the report, if current temperature patterns continue the typical summer in upstate New York may feel like the present-day summer in South Carolina by the end of the century, while summers in New Hampshire could feel like the current summer climate of North Carolina.

Increased global warming, the report states, could also lead to an increased frequency of late summer and fall droughts; spring arriving three weeks earlier; fall becoming warmer and drier; and winter becoming shorter and milder.

When the UCS report was first published, Chris Phelps, a spokesman for Connecticut Fund for the Environment, said these changes can dramatically affect water, agriculture, economics and public health. It would also change the quintessential New England winter and fall foliage, Phelps said.  Even former Vice President Al Gore has tried to draw attention to the issue of global warming with his movie "An Inconvenient Truth."

But not everyone thinks the global warming picture looks so bleak.

An October article on, an online journal whose self-stated purpose is to debunk scientific "junk," said that the global warming reports are nothing but scare tactics. The article reads: " ... the planet's temperature is always changing and warming is what the globe is doing when it is not cooling, i.e., about half the time." The article goes on to say that " ... most people seem to be under the impression Earth is or should be a more or less constant temperature and that a few tenths of a degree change indicates some radical departure. This is not a valid concept."

Another article featured on by Richard S. Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology, Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and well-known global warming skeptic, acknowledges the effect carbon dioxide has on the environment but says the effect is not as great as it some environmental groups say it is.

Lindzen writes: "There is little disagreement that levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have risen from about 280 parts per million by volume in the 19th century to about 387 ppmv today ... there has been no question whatever that carbon dioxide is an infrared absorber (i.e., a greenhouse gas — albeit a minor one), and its increase should theoretically contribute to warming. Indeed, if all else were kept equal, the increase in carbon dioxide should have led to somewhat more warming than has been observed, assuming that the small observed increase was in fact due to increasing carbon dioxide rather than a natural fluctuation in the climate system."

Despite the skeptics, individual states have made changes emissions standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In 2004, Connecticut adopted the California Clean Cars Standard, a standard not adopted by all 50 states. In 2006, the state Senate passed Bill 920 to create a strategy to reduce black carbon diesel pollution.

But environmentalists say there is more to be done and that having a mandate for cleaner-burning cars is one way to ensure that this type of pollution will be decreased.

"Connecticut residents should feel a tremendous sense of pride in our attorney general's work to pursue all avenues of controlling global warming pollution," said Roger Smith, campaign director for Clean Water Action and coordinator of Connecticut Climate Coalition. "As coordinator, I work with over 90 partner organizations across the state to make sure Connecticut does its part to reduce our pollution, and we need the attorney general to hold Washington and other states accountable for theirs."

Smith said he is hoping that the Supreme Court will give greater clarity as to whether the EPA has to act to stop global warming under the Clean Air Act.

Pivotal case on global warming confronts high court
By H. JOSEF HEBERT, Associated Press Writer

Nov 27, 1:03 AM EST

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court hears arguments this week in a case that could determine whether the Bush administration must change course in how it deals with the threat of global warming.

A dozen states as well as environmental groups and large cities are trying to convince the court that the Environmental Protection Agency must regulate, as a matter of public health, the amount of carbon dioxide that comes from vehicles.

Carbon dioxide is produced when fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas are burned. It is the principal "greenhouse" gas that many scientists believe is flowing into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate, leading to a warming of the earth and widespread ecological changes. One way to reduce those emissions is to have cleaner-burning cars.

The Bush administration intends to argue before the court on Wednesday that the EPA lacks the power under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The agency contends that even if it did have such authority, it would have discretion under the law on how to address the problem without imposing emissions controls.
The states, which are led by Massachusetts and include Connecticut, and more than a dozen environmental groups insist the 1970 law makes clear that carbon dioxide is a pollutant - much like lead and smog-causing chemicals - that is subject to regulation because its poses a threat to public health.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal described the stakes as "nothing less than the survival of the Earth as we know it."

He said that while he recognizes a court victory would not immediately eliminate all carbon dioxide emissions, it would force the EPA to set rules that would be applied to newly built vehicles over time.

"The question is whether we're fighting a losing battle, and can anything we do really make a difference? And my answer is, we have to begin somewhere," he said.

A sharply divided federal appeals court ruled in favor of the government in 2005. But last June, the Supreme Court decided to take up the case, plunging for the first time into the politically charged debate over global warming. The ruling next year is expected to be one of the court's most important ever involving the environment.

"Global warming is the most pressing environmental issue of our time and the decision by the court on this case will make a deep and lasting impact for generations to come," says Massachusetts' attorney general, Thomas Reilly.

David Bookbinder, a lawyer for the Sierra Club, says a legal clarification of the EPA's authority could determine whether the current administration must regulate carbon dioxide emissions and whether a future one will be able to demand such limits.

At issue for now is pollution from automobiles. But the ruling indirectly may affect how the agency deals with carbon dioxide that comes from electric power plants.

In a separate lawsuit, the EPA says the Clean Air Act also prevents it from regulating such emissions from those plants. That claim would be undercut, Bookbinder says, if the high court rules in the states' favor in the auto emissions case.

President Bush has rejected calls to regulate carbon dioxide. He favors voluntary steps by industry and development of new technologies to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere.

"We still have very strong reservations about an overarching, one-size-fits-all mandate about carbon," James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, recently told a group of reporters.

The administration says in court papers the EPA should not be required to "embark on the extraordinarily complex and scientifically uncertain task of addressing the global issue of greenhouse gas emissions" when other ways are available to tackle climate change.

The United States accounts for about one-quarter of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of carbon dioxide from U.S. motor vehicles, power plants and other industry has increased on average by about 1 percent a year since 1990.

Now that Democrats will control the House and Senate in January after their election victories this month, there is expected to be increased pressure in Congress for mandatory limits on carbon emissions.

The election results "have signaled a need to change direction" on dealing with global warming, three Democratic senators who will play leading roles on environmental issues recently wrote the president.

But whether there is such a shift actually may depend, in the end, on the Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs in the suit are California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. They were joined by cities such as Baltimore, New York and the District of Columbia; the Pacific island of America Samoa; the Sierra Club; the Union of Concerned Scientists; Greenpeace; and Friends of the Earth.

The case is Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, 05-1120.

Global Warming Gets Personal
Hartford Courant editorial
March 23, 2007

Scientists have been talking for years about global warming and its consequences for melting glaciers, rising sea levels, shrinking ice shelves and drowning polar bears. But the new hardiness-zone map of the United States revised by the National Arbor Day Foundation shows the effects of global warming in our own front yards.

Gardeners use hardiness zones to determine which plants are best suited to a given climate. Each zone is defined by its average annual lowest temperature within a 10-degree range.

According to the official 1990 map, the southern tip of Florida, with average annual low temperatures of 30 to 40 degrees, was Zone 10. The coldest zone in the 48 continental states - Zone 3 - was in northern Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and the Midwest, with average lows of minus 30 to minus 40 degrees. Most of Connecticut was Zone 6 (defined as having an average low of zero to minus 10); the northeast and northwest corners were Zone 5 (minus 10 to minus 20 degrees).

But a lot has changed. According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, whose new map is based on 15 years' worth of data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, almost all of Connecticut is now Zone 6.

The shoreline, where average annual lows are now reported to be between 10 to zero degrees, is Zone 7 - the same hardiness zone that, according to the 1990 map, was assigned to north-central Texas, Arkansas and the northern half of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

The National Arbor Day Foundation's map is one more confirmation of something that a growing international community of environmentalists, scientists and leaders have been saying for some time: The Earth is getting warmer a lot faster than anticipated, and we're already feeling the effects.

We no longer have the luxury of debating when or whether we should do something. The question now before us - in Washington, D.C., in the state Capitol and in our homes - is: What must we do? a related matter (transportation):

Get Serious About Rail

DAY editorial
March 23, 2007
For most of the postwar period there was a focus to transportation spending: building the interstate highway system. But with the system essentially finished, focus has been lost. Federal transportation spending devolved into the pork-laden $286 billion transportation bill in 2005, with more than 6,300 earmarks. When the bridges to somewhere had been built, we started on the bridges to nowhere.

Federal transportation spending needs a new focus: rebuilding the country's rail network. It is shameful that the world's only superpower has a rail passenger network that would embarrass most Third World countries.

While many states and major metropolitan regions are trying to improve their rail connections, it's only now occurring to the federal government that the country needs rail as part of a multimodal transportation system if it is to reduce dependence on foreign oil, lessen air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and produce the sensible economies of transit-oriented development.

A place to start - but only to start - is with proper funding of Amtrak. President Bush, like President Ronald Reagan, has tried to zero out Amtrak, and this year proposes a bare-bones $800 million.

However, U.S. Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., have introduced a bill to provide Amtrak with $19.2 billion over the next six years. This will allow Amtrak to improve its safety and reliability, improve the infrastructure in the busy Northeast Corridor and develop new routes. With the additional money, Amtrak will be expected to undertake a number of operational and financial reforms.

A similar bill introduced in the last Congress passed the Senate by a vote of 93 to 6 but was never taken up by the House.

This year it should be. The age of the endless highway is quickly coming to an end. We need to start moving many more people - as well as more freight - by rail. If we hadn't foolishly allowed rail service to deteriorate, trains would carry millions more commuters and would be competitive with air and auto travel for mid-distance, 100- to 500-mile downtown-to-downtown trips.

But because we've allowed the system to atrophy, many passenger routes cannot be run on time because they are stuck behind freight trains. Rail freight service has increased every year for the past nine years. But since many rail corridors cannot accommodate freight and passenger trains at the same time, Amtrak is late. And slow. In most of the country, Amtrak trains are outpaced by passing cars. That's not true in France, Japan or most other industrialized countries.

Republicans still use Amtrak as a whipping boy because it was created to make money, and doesn't. But it should have been created to move passengers and minimize losses, as passenger systems are in most other countries. Airports and highways aren't expected to turn a profit.

After the Lautenberg-Lott bill, Congress should be looking to put rail on a par with highways and make 80 percent of construction funding available for new lines - the new lines that will be needed to create a world-class rail network.

U.N. panel blames humans for warming
By Alister Doyle, Reuters Environment Correspondent
Feb. 1, 2007

PARIS (Reuters) - The U.N. climate panel agreed its strongest warning yet on Thursday that human activities are causing global warming that may bring more droughts, heatwaves and rising seas, delegates said.  The report, due for formal release on Friday and bolstering conclusions from a 2001 study, may put pressure on governments and companies to do more to curb greenhouse gases mainly from burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and cars.

Scientists and government officials in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the most authoritative group on global warming, agreed it was "very likely" that human activities were the main cause of warming in the past 50 years, delegates said.  In IPCC language, "very likely" means at least 90 percent probability and is the strongest link to human activities since the IPCC was set up in 1988. The previous study in 2001 said a link was "likely," or 66 percent probable.

"The phrase 'very likely' was approved," said one delegate at the talks, who like others asked not to be named. IPCC officials declined comment, saying that the report would be released on Friday at 0830 GMT.  The IPCC, grouping 2,500 scientists from 130 countries, is also set to say that oceans will keep rising for more than 1,000 years even if governments stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

The report is the first of four this year by the panel that will outline threats of warming.

The Paris study, looking at the science of global warming, will also project a "best estimate" that temperatures will rise by 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) by 2100 over pre-industrial levels, the biggest change in a century for thousands of years.


It says bigger gains, of up to 6.3C in one model, cannot be ruled out but do not fit well with other data. The world is now about 5C warmer than during the last Ice Age.

The draft projects that Arctic ice will shrink, and perhaps disappear in summers by 2100, while heatwaves and downpours would get more frequent. The numbers of tropical hurricanes and typhoons might decrease but the storms would become stronger.  The Gulf Stream bringing warm waters to the North Atlantic could slow, although a shutdown is highly unlikely, it says.

And sea levels are likely to rise by between 28 and 43 cm (11-17 inches) this century, a lower range than forecast in 2001. Rising seas threaten low-lying Pacific islands and low-lying coastal nations from Bangladesh to the Netherlands.

"Governments planning coastal defenses have to live with large uncertainties for now, and quite some time in future," said Stefan Rahmstorf of Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Rahmstorf wrote a report last year saying that observations of past changes indicated a bigger rise by 2100, of 50-140 cm.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, near where the IPCC experts were meeting, was to shut off its famous night-time illuminations for five minutes on Thursday night to draw attention to energy use.  U.N. officials hope the IPCC report will spur stalled talks on expanding the fight against global warming.  Thirty five industrial nations aim to cut emissions of greenhouse gases to five percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 under the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol and want outsiders such as the United States, China and India to do more.

Last week President George W. Bush said climate change was a "serious challenge." But he has stopped short of capping emissions despite pressure from Democrats who control both houses of Congress -- arguing Kyoto would damage the economy.

Environmentists: Bush on the right track
By JILL BODACH, Hour Staff Writer
January 25, 2007

REGION — President George W. Bush's call for increased gas mileage in vehicles in his State of the Union address has some environmentalists hoping that the fuel and gas mileage proposals will translate in real changes in the status of the fuel economy.

They say that the proposals were ones that scientists and environmentalists have been waiting to hear.

"This could be the breakthrough we have been waiting on for the fuel economy," said David Freidman, research director for the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The president is calling for increasing the gas mileage of cars, SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks to 34 miles per gallon by 2017, the equivalent of a 4-percent improvement per year.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has conducted research that estimates that if the fuel economy goal is required by law, it would save 550,000 barrels of oil per day in 2017, more than is currently imported from Iraq.

"The increase would also cut global warming pollution by 95 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in that same year, which is equivalent to taking 14 million of today's cars and trucks off of the road," Freidman said.

Environmentalists are remaining cautious, waiting to see if the changes are implemented by law.

"In order for this to really be a breakthrough, we need there to be a law that requires the implementation of the improvements that the president is talking about," said Don MacKenzie, a vehicle researcher with the Union for Concerned Scientists. "If it just stops at talk it will be disheartening."

What the president is proposing is a possibility, MacKenzie said, and would significantly affect the amount of pollutants released into the air.

"The 4-percent fuel economy increase is well within the range of what we know is feasible. We need that target to be fixed and for Congress to allow the president to have the authority and flexibility to implement this in a way that is fair and equitable."

Members of the Connecticut Public Interest Research Group are also concerned that the proposals will fail if they aren't strictly enforced.

"Overall, it's heartening that the president called for increased fuel economy but, overall, the plan has a lot of details that call into question whether or not we'll achieve the goals he is calling for," said Kate Johnson, clean energy associate for ConnPIRG. "For example, the Secretary of Transportation could just waive the 4 percent a year increase, or the automakers could meet lower standards by making larger vehicles."

Both the Union for Concerned Scientists and ConnPIRG agreed that there are several other plans that could decrease global warming and that he would have liked to see in the president's plan.

"We know that to tackle the problem of global warming, we need to look at it from the angle of our vehicles, which account for 20 percent of all global warming," MacKenzie said.

MacKenzie said there are three approaches that could be taken: Better fuel economy for our vehicles to ensure that drivers can go further on every gallon of fuel; a transition to renewable and alternative fuels in a way that doesn't pollute air, water and soil and reduces the overall heat trapping emissions that comes from other fuels; and limit the amount that people need to drive by encouraging walking, biking, carpooling or riding mass transit to work.

Johnson said that she'd like to see the president endorse the bipartisan bill that called for a cut in tax breaks for big oil companies and the investment of that money in clean energy technologies and support other policies such as the federal renewable energy standard, which would require a certain percentage of energy to be obtained from clean, renewable resources like wind, solar and biodiesel.

"A renewable energy standard would ensure that we're powering most of our country on clean, homegrown sources of energy," Johnson said. "We have vast amounts or renewable energy and we need to look at more of them than just ethanol."

Patrick signs regional greenhouse gas initiative 
By STEVE LeBLANC, Associated Press Writer 
Posted on Jan 18, 4:49 PM EST

BOSTON (AP) -- Gov. Deval Patrick, making good on a campaign pledge, signed an agreement Thursday committing Massachusetts to the nation's first multistate program to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Patrick also announced a new program intended to create energy savings for households and industry by auctioning off so-called "emission allowances" that electricity generators will need for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit under the pact.

"Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our time," Patrick said. "On this day, we want everyone to know that Massachusetts will not stand on the sidelines."

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is designed to curb carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 10 percent by 2019. It has already been signed by governors from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney opted out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in 2005, saying it could drive up energy costs for consumers.

Patrick acknowledged that joining the pact could drive up electricity bills by $3 to $16 on the average household with an annual energy bill of $950.

"What's most important is that we be careful not to use short-term factors to defeat long-term objectives," he said.

Patrick, who worked for Texaco in the late 1990s, signed the initiative at an afternoon news conference with state Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

The main goal of the bipartisan RGGI is to cut emissions of the greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. As part of the program, the states are set to begin charging power plants fees for carbon dioxide emissions beginning in 2009.

As part of the agreement, states are given "allowances" for emissions. Electricity generators like power plants will need the allowances for each ton of carbon dioxide they emit. Each state has the discretion to distribute the allowances however it wants.

Patrick said Massachusetts will auction off all of the allowances and use the money - estimated at between $25 million to $125 million annually - to create a new program to encourage energy savings.

The money would go to pay for energy efficiency, demand reduction, renewable energy programs, and combined heat and power projects, which use what is normally wasted heat from power generation for efficient heating.

The funds will also be used to manage peak demand for electricity, lowering electric bills for consumers, Patrick said. Customers will have incentives to use technologies like automatic lighting and air conditioning controls that can help minimize peak-time usage.

"Changes in the electricity market are creating new economic incentives for large scale energy efficiency initiatives and programs that cut electricity demand on peak days - the hottest days in the summer when lots of us are using air conditioners," Bowles said.

Critics fear the plan could drastically increase electricity rates because it would force companies to build new plants, or convert plants to use natural gas.

But environmental activists said that without the plan and the new fees for power plants, the state would never meet its carbon dioxide reduction goals.

"What a breath of fresh air from our previous governor who walked away from the climate crisis altogether," said Cindy Luppi of Clean Water Action.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom defended the former Republican governor's decision not to join the pact and predicted the agreement would "lead to unacceptably higher electricity prices for consumers and put our businesses at a competitive disadvantage."

Patrick also announced that Massachusetts would begin buying renewable electricity for state agencies.

Patrick said the state Division of Energy Resources will seek proposals for the procurement of renewable electricity for five state agencies, including the departments of Environmental Protection, Conservation and Recreation, and Fish and Game, MassHighway and the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

The department represent approximately 15 percent of the electricity that will be used by the executive branch over the next 12 years, Patrick said.

Environmental activists have also urged Patrick to reject changes to the state's clean air regulations proposed by Romney last year.

Those changes would let owners of the filthiest power plants buy their way out of cleaning up their smokestacks by paying into a greenhouse gas trust fund instead.

NYTIMES LATEST ON GREENLAND HERE:  article for the global warming folks - those who deny and those who decry.  Slide show.

A Big Collapse In Greenland:  Melting glaciers reveal islands where once there was solid land.
By Day Staff Writer
Published on 1/17/2007

To those still uncertain about the harrowing results of global warming, the lessons of Greenland are troubling for the speed of effects discovered on glaciers there. The melting of ice, once thought to take long periods of time, is happening so quickly that scientists fear a rise in seawater much quicker than expected.

Explorers and cartographers mapping Greenland are discovering “new” islands appearing where once they were thought to be part of the mainland. Instead, the islands were held together by massive layers of ice, and those frozen connections are thawing, revealing a very different geography. The discoveries are one more warning to a sometimes indifferent world that nations must band together to reduce greenhouse gases or face devastating effects on the climate and economy of the world.

Visitors report many icebergs cracking and breaking off from larger ice structures.

Arctic explorer Will Steger, visiting off the Norwegian island of Svalbard, found places where glaciers had disappeared in just two years.

And Carl Egede Boggild, an expert on ice and physics from the University Center of Svalbard, said he believes Greenland could be losing more than 80 cubic miles of ice per year, or three times the volume of all the glaciers in the Alps.

The New York Times reports that climate scientists believed that melting glaciers would have minor effects for the next 100 years, but new evidence of the rapid warming of ice in Greenland changes that assessment. Computer models used to make the earlier estimates were wrong, scientists believe.

If all of the glaciers on Greenland melted, the effect would be to raise sea levels around the globe by 23 feet. A one-foot increase in sea levels would flood low areas and cause water to move thousands of feet inland.

What does this mean? Simply stated, the conditions indicate that it's well past time debating whether or not there is global warming. The world's climate conditions may be approaching a crisis in which unprecedented global cooperation among nations will be needed to begin reversing the trend.

The United States, long ambivalent about global warming, needs to play a lead role in organizing worldwide cooperation to devise a plan that attacks the problem on multiple levels. Absent such leadership, the world will move to emergency conditions in a relatively short time. Time is running out for responsible nations to answer this challenge. The U.S. should be in the lead.

Follow the global warming story here...far away places and right in our own back yard!  Supreme Court to get into this!


EPA staffers go to Hill over global warming:  Dissatisfied with the agency's greenhouse-gas emissions program, labor leaders are pleading for congressional intervention.
By Peter N. Spotts | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the December 01, 2006 edition

This week, labor leaders representing more than 10,000 Environmental Protection Agency scientists, engineers, and staff have asked Congress to hold aggressive oversight hearings on the agency's own greenhouse-gas emissions programs.

Under the Bush administration's voluntary approach, the labor leaders' petition says, the agency isn't doing enough to encourage the use of current technology to control carbon-dioxide emissions, the leading cause of human-induced climate change. In fact, the time for a voluntary program is over, the leaders say.
"The science is too clear and the consequences are too grave" to continue down the path the administration is following, says William Hirzy, an EPA senior scientist currently on a teaching assignment at American University. He's vice president of the National Treasury Employees Union chapter that represents employees at EPA headquarters in Washington.

The labor leaders, who are presidents of the EPA's 22 union locals, also called on lawmakers to ensure that agency experts are allowed to speak freely and openly about global warming with the public and Congress "without fear of reprisal."

In addition, the petition, which was sent to two key Capitol Hill committees, asks lawmakers to "support a vigorous program of enforcement and reduction in GHG [greenhouse-gas] emissions."

The administration has held that regulating CO2 is outside the agency's purview. Indeed, this week, the US Supreme Court heard arguments in a suit against the EPA over this issue. Deputy Solicitor General Gregory Garre argued that Congress never gave the EPA authority to regulate CO2. Even if the agency had the authority, he continued, "now is not the time to exercise such authority, in light of the substantial scientific uncertainty surrounding global climate change and the ongoing studies to address those uncertainties."

The petition's drafters say they originally planned to release the document in a few weeks, on the eve of the new, Democratically led Congress. But they opted to send the document to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week as the high court heard oral arguments on the issue.

This is not the first time EPA's unions have flagged issues that some members reportedly have difficulty raising through bureaucratic channels. And it's unclear how deep the petition's sentiments run through the agency's rank and file. "We can't say it's 100 percent," Dr. Hirzy acknowledges.

Still, the unions represent the only safe avenue for career scientists and engineers to speak out, according to Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. In 2005, he explains, the US Supreme Court held that public employees couldn't rely on the First Amendment to shield them from retaliation if they blew the whistle on unethical or illegal activities on the job.

The petition comes at a time when speculation is rising in Washington that President Bush may substantially modify his approach to carbon emissions. In press interviews, some administration officials have hinted that Mr. Bush is preparing to unveil new energy and climate policies, perhaps in his State of the Union message early next year.

Some analysts say that the White House has polled energy companies, asking: What's your bottom line on possible regulations? In October, the head of Shell Oil, speaking at the National Press Club, said that a patchwork of state rules would be too hard to deal with, and that a national program is needed.

"You've got different dynamics at play," and the logical place to look for a new position would be the State of the Union address, says John Stanton, vice president of the National Environmental Trust. 

A Wall Of Water Coming:  Scientists see glacial ice melting raplidly in Greenland.
Day editorial 
Published on 2/19/2006
Even the most ardent advocate who contends global warming is a lot of nonsense will have trouble explaining away a new report that the amount of ice flowing to the sea from glaciers in southern Greenland has virtually doubled in 10 years.
What's more, the study, by NASA's Pasadena, Calif., jet-propulsion laboratory and University of Kansas scientists, concludes that the increase in ice floes breaking off is likely to expand to glaciers farther north in Greenland.

What's ominous about that belief is that the glaciers in northern Greenland have ice sheets almost two miles thick and, if they break up and flow to the sea, could raise ocean levels by 20 feet or more.

The scientists believe the glaciers melting are not isolated examples, but the glaciers are consistently experiencing this phenomenon. And that fact, they say, suggests a dramatic climate effect.

With many countries, China and India the most significant, experiencing huge increases in their economies, and other nations growing their industrial bases, the time is fast coming when the world community must deal with the idea that scientists must find ways to reverse or impede the trend. This is something they cannot do without concerted and dedicated political cooperation around the globe.


Greenland ice swells ocean rise
By Paul Rincon, BBC News science reporter, St Louis
16 Feb 2006

Greenland's glaciers are sliding towards the sea much faster than previously believed, scientists have told a conference in St Louis, US.  It was thought the entire Greenland ice sheet could melt in about 1,000 years, but the latest evidence suggests that could happen much sooner.

It implies that sea levels will rise much faster as well.

Details of the study, by Nasa and University of Kansas researchers, are also reported in the journal Science.  The comprehensive analysis found that the amount of ice dumped into the Atlantic Ocean has doubled in the last five years.

If the Greenland ice sheet melted completely, it would raise global sea levels by about 7m.

"It takes a long time to build and melt an ice sheet, but glaciers can react quickly to temperature changes," said co-author Eric Rignot, from the US space agency's (Nasa) Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.  Rising surface air-temperatures seem to be behind the increases in glacier speed in the southern half of Greenland since 1996; but the northward spread of warmer temperatures may be responsible for a rapid increase in glacier speed further north after 2000.

Dr Rignot and colleagues described their results at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Greenland melt 'speeding up' - This Greenland glacier is now one of the fastest moving in the world

11August 2006

The meltdown of Greenland's ice sheet is speeding up, satellite measurements show.  Data from a US space agency (Nasa) satellite show that the melting rate has accelerated since 2004. If the ice cap were to completely disappear, global sea levels would rise by 6.5m (21 feet)...

Online study of Appalachian Trail also requires mountain hiking
Associated Press Writer
Nov 26, 12:06 PM EST

CATAWBA, Va. (AP) -- April Lucas slings a nylon bag holding a sleeping bag over her shoulder, hoping it will balance satchels carrying leftover pizza, clothes and gear for a night in the woods.

A dozen or so companions look more ready for the trek to a primitive campsite, with tents and equipment hanging off backpack frames. But except for the leaders, this is a group of hiking novices who know each other mostly through Internet chats.  They're taking a high-tech college course exploring a low-tech subject: the Appalachian Trail. The offering by Bluefield and Ferrum colleges is billed as "online and on foot."

The course is no snap. Students must take weekly hikes on their own, recording their experiences in journals and photos posted online. They perform nature-enhancing community service projects - and must post before-and-after-photos - as well as study art and literature by naturalists and how to survive in the woods.  One student spent hours trying to do an early assignment to find and photograph a salamander. As night fell, she finally substituted a snake.

"Oh man, uphill already," Kerri Williams of Floyd said as the crew set out single file earlier in November to fulfill a class assignment: a hike of 7 miles on the trail to McAfee's Knob and back, with an overnight stop in temperatures that froze their water solid.

The course is the brainchild of Bluefield College assistant English professor Mickey Pellillo, who offers it in collaboration with three others.  One is Bluefield colleague Walter Shroyer, an art professor who savors the peacefulness he finds hiking the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine and includes 52 miles in Connecticut's northwest hills.

"You mean there's a place on this earth that is this quiet?" Shroyer, who grew up in Atlanta, recalled thinking on his first AT hike as a teenager.  After he took a job at Bluefield College and moved close to the trail 15 years ago, he enticed his colleagues to try hiking. One was Pellillo, who quickly got hooked.

"It was gorgeous," Pellillo, 51, said of the panoramic views. "I couldn't believe the world even looked like that."

Pellillo has since hiked the entire 2,175 miles of the trail, a goal Shroyer still has before him. A fall in which he broke his wrist on the second day out last year kept him from completing the last 600-mile leg in New England.  The Appalachian College Association's grant offer for an innovative, online, interdisciplinary course prompted Pellillo to come up with the class, which has been offered in the fall since 2004.

"I couldn't get any more innovative than an online hiking course," Pellillo said recently in an interview on the Bluefield College campus.  The course offering is a collaborative effort by the two Bluefield professors and two from Ferrum College: biology professor Bob Pohlad and assistant outdoor recreation professor Linwood Clayton. Davis & Elkins College faculty joined the effort as well, but dropped out this year.

Students can take the course to fulfill a requirement for art, literature, science or outdoor recreation, but must do assignments in each discipline.  While the course attracts traditional students at Bluefield and Ferrum, more than half are enrolled in Bluefield's adult degree program. Most have limited experience with the outdoors, Pellillo said.

"We had some women from Richmond last year," Shroyer said. "Their idea of being out in nature was a lawn."

The online class has a couple of face-to-face requirements: a field trip to the Art Museum of Western Virginia in Roanoke and/or at least one of four overnight hikes on the Appalachian Trail that are offered.  Occasionally students ask whether they can take the class and skip the hiking part, Pellillo said. The answer is no.  Lisa Waller of Halifax wasn't able to complete a 5-mile class hike in the Sherando Recreation Area because she fell and was injured.

"I didn't know what all I was getting into," she said. "I wasn't prepared for a hike."

To make up for missing the last half-mile, Waller, with her 2-year-old son Luke and 6-month-old daughter Hannah in tow, brought snacks to send off the McAfee's Knob hikers and greet them when they returned nearly 24 hours later.  Lucas, a 25-year-old from Giles County, was on her second hike on the McAfee's excursion. She called the first - at Bastian in Bland County - "a shocking experience" that required a day of recovery.

"Some of them really dread these hikes," Shroyer said. But inevitably, he said, they feel a sense of accomplishment afterward.  That was Lucas' experience at McAfee's Knob.

"Even though I had on four pairs of pants, two shirts, a hooded sweat shirt, a jacket, two pairs of socks and gloves, the cold was too much," she wrote in an e-mail after spending a sleepless night in subfreezing temperatures.  She said her neck, shoulders, back and legs were still sore several days later.

"But even taking all of that into consideration, I don't regret the experience," she said.

"Getting outside and enjoying a good hike and view of the world below is something that costs nothing, and the memories will last a lifetime."


Appalachian Trail could be 'canary in coal mine' for eastern U.S.
By VICKI SMITH, Associated Press Writer
Nov 25, 12:07 PM EST

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- It stretches nearly 2,200 miles, a ribbon of mountains and meadows, forests and fauna. But scientists, hikers and land managers say the Appalachian Trail is more than a footpath.

Passing through 14 states and eight national forests from Georgia to Maine, it's also a living laboratory that could help warn 120 million people along the Eastern Seaboard of looming environmental problems.

That's why a diverse group of organizations has launched a project to begin long-term monitoring of the environmental health of the trail, with plans to tap into an army of volunteer "citizen scientists" and their professional counterparts. 
Together, they will collect information about plants and animals, air and water quality, visibility and migration patterns to build an early warning system for the non-hiking public.
"It's somewhat like the canary in the coal mine in the sense of using it as a barometer for environmental and human health conditions," says Gregory Miller, president of the Maryland-based American Hiking Society.

About 52 miles of the trail wind through northwestern Connecticut, passing near Kent, Cornwall Bridge and Salisbury before ascending Bear Mountain and following Sages Ravine into Massachusetts.

The Appalachian Mountains are considered ideal for the environmental monitoring project because they are home to one of the richest collections of temperate zone species in the world, and the trail has a natural diversity that is nearly unsurpassed in the national park system.  It also has different ecosystems that blend into one another - hardwood forests next to softwood forests next to alpine forests.

The idea for the Appalachian Trail Mega-Transect is in its infancy but it already has support from the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service, Cornell University, National Geographic Society and the earth-conscious beauty products company, Aveda Corp.

"We're really after two things," says Brian Mitchell, a coordinator with the park service's Northeast Temperate Network in Woodstock, Vt. "We want to get a better understanding of what's happening on the trail so we can better manage it. The other side is we want to take the lessons we learn from the trail and show people that what's happening on the trail does actually affect us."

Scientists will periodically issue reports aimed at helping the average American understand the gradual trickle-down effect of environmental problems.  High ozone levels, for example, can reduce photosynthesis and growth, and speed up aging and leaf loss in plants. In humans, it can affect the lungs, respiratory tract and eyes, and increase susceptibility to allergens.

Atmospheric deposition - airborne sulfur and nitrogen that drop from rain and snow into soil - can affect farming and crop growth.  Dave Startzell, executive director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, says smog and air quality in the Great Smoky Mountains are good examples of what people need to know.

"People will read that on 25 or 30 days in a given year, it's considered unhealthy to walk on the Appalachian Trail, and we think that's going to grab people's attention more than if they just read about air quality trends in general," he said.

That's also why volunteers will be critical to the project's success.

"It's one thing for people to read about the decline of neotropical migratory bird species or acid deposition or determining air quality and visibility in the abstract. We think it's another thing when people learn about that firsthand by actually helping to collect that information," Startzell says.

Environmental change is slow and can be hard to grasp, agrees Mitchell. But people need to look only at rising sea levels to see the potential human impact.

"If you have somebody actually going out and seeing where high tide is every year, you can have a measuring point and tell if sea levels are rising," he says. "People don't think that a foot of sea level rise is a big deal - until it's combined with storm surge and a hurricane."

The same concepts would apply to the trail, where Mitchell says volunteers could help with such tasks as measuring tree diameters, taking photographs to illustrate visibility, tracking the arrival times of migratory birds and dating the blooming and leaf loss of trees.

Mitchell hopes that within the next year, the partners will have at least two flagship programs for volunteers.  Advocates of the monitoring plan hope the project will help drive changes in public policy and personal behavior.  Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan lamented "a frightening lack of leadership" in fashioning steps to reduce pollution that scientists believe contributes to global warming.

The United States and Australia are the only major industrialized countries to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which requires 35 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. President Bush says it would harm the U.S. economy, and it should have required cutbacks in poorer nations as well.

"Part of our hope is that as people become more aware of trends affecting those lands, they'll be motivated to take action," Startzell says, "whether that means switching to a hybrid car or just conducting their own way of life in a little more energy efficient manner, or going to a town hall meeting and advocating for more open space."

Miller, of the American Hiking Society, says the trail also could inspire more people to get outdoors and become active at a time when the nation is coping with epidemic levels of childhood obesity and other health problems.

"It is both ecologically as well as culturally a ribbon that binds us and connects us," he says. "It reflects the pioneer nature of all our peoples - the connection to the land that maybe some of us have not maintained.

"It's something we hope everyone will buy into."

Climate Change to Get Congressional Hearing
by Elizabeth Shogren
November 9, 2006 ·

Environmental issues likely will get a lot more attention with Democrats in control of the House and Senate. The current chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), calls global warming a "hoax." The senator who plans to take his place, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), says climate change is "the challenge of our generation."

Boxer says she'll fight for a mandatory federal policy to cut climate-change emissions, along the lines of what California has done. California's law requires a reduction of greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who expects to be the chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, says he'll also work to pass mandatory caps on the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute climate change. But Bingaman takes a less aggressive approach than Boxer does.

Boxer admitted it "isn't going to be a piece of cake" to get such complicated legislation through the Congress, even with Democrats holding the majority in both houses. Controlling greenhouse gases is not at all popular with the auto industry and power sector. The likely chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. John Dingell (MI), has fought against tough fuel-economy standards for vehicles in the past. And the likely chairman of the House Resources Committee, Nick Rahall (D-WV) is from coal country.

Climate change isn't the only environmental priority for Democrats. They also want to do away with some tax cuts and royalty relief granted to oil and gas companies. And they want to undo some exemptions that industry was given from environmental laws. They plan to push laws that promote energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and biodiesel.

Democrats also hope to use their power in the majority to increase the scrutiny of the way the Bush administration has been running the Environmental Protection Agency and Interior Department. Democrats have accused these agencies of ignoring or manipulating science to benefit industry.

Cal governor in NYC to link to Northeast's emission program
By KAREN MATTHEWS, Associated Press Writer
Oct 16, 3:35 PM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) -- California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gov. George Pataki on Monday announced a partnership that would bring California together with a group of Northeast states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Schwarzenegger said he would sign an executive order on Tuesday that calls for a program that would allow his state to work with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions at power plants in the Northeast beginning in 2009. It allows power plants to trade emissions credits as a way to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

The partnership is the first step in creating a system that helps California's largest manufacturers comply with stricter environmental regulations. Industrial corporations and utility companies in California must cut their greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 25 percent by 2020 as part of a landmark global warming law. Linking California to the Northeast program could help California power plants meet their obligations under that state's new law.

"Our cooperation can be a model to the rest of the states and to other countries actually," Schwarzenegger said after the two lawmakers toured Solaire, a green residential building in lower Manhattan touted as one of the country's largest and first "green" residential high-rise building.
Pataki said that a "market-driven cap and trade system" would benefit both the environment and industry.

In an effort to make the cap workable for businesses, Schwarzenegger has advocated setting up a market system that could enable the state's companies to buy, sell and trade emission credits instead of making their own reductions.

The Northeast system involves seven states - Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. Maryland is expected to join in June 2007.

The executive order is Schwarzenegger's latest move to address global warming - an issue that has often put the Republican governor at odds with the Bush administration. Schwarzenegger this summer urged the governors of Western states to join California in a regional trading system and signed an agreement with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to develop new technologies to combat global warming.

Pataki helped craft the Northeast system after President Bush withdrew from the 160-nation Kyoto Protocol on global warming in 2001, saying it would hurt the U.S. economy.

Schwarzenegger was spending Monday in New York learning about corporate and government efforts to combat global warming, and opened trading on the Nasdaq stock market.

Schwarzenegger, who is running for re-election in November, has touted California's 2006 global warming law as a key component of his environmental record. It has also distinguished him from Bush, who has said companies should voluntarily reduce emissions.

California's global warming law imposes the country's first mandatory statewide cap on greenhouse gas emissions, a move that has been criticized by manufacturers and cement makers - two of the largest emitters of the greenhouse gases that scientists blame for rising temperatures in many parts of the world.

Melting Arctic Ocean Ice Raises Warming Concerns Scientists Report
The Baltimore Sun - 'lake' bigger than Indiana spreading (Sun's headline)
Published on 9/23/2006

Something unusual is going on in the Beaufort Sea, a remote part of the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. Over the past six weeks, a huge “lake” bigger than the state of Indiana has melted out of the sea ice.

Within the past week, this “polynya” — a Russian word for any open water surrounded by sea ice — finally melted through a part of the ice that separated it from the open ocean, forming a kind of bay in the planet's northern ice cap.

“The reason we're tracking it is because we had never seen anything like that before,” said Mark C. Serreze, senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, in Boulder, Colo.

Polynyas occur every year in certain parts of the Arctic where warm currents and persistent winds clear swaths of sea ice.

But this one, covering 38,000 square miles, is unique in the memory of scientists who watch the Arctic ice closely because they see it as a bellwether for the effects of global warming. They've found that the area of the summer ice cap has been shrinking for at least three decades, and it's getting thinner, too.

Last year, scientists at NASA and the NSIDC reported the most extensive summer meltdown of Arctic sea ice on record, and an acceleration in the rate of its long-term decline. In a new study reported last week, NASA researcher Josefino Comiso found that the Arctic's winter ice is also in decline, and at an accelerating rate.

The ice cap is crucial because it helps regulate the planet's temperature. Its bright surface reflects 80 percent of the solar energy that strikes it, sending it back into space.

Climatologists say a smaller ice cap will reflect less solar energy and expose more open water, which is darker and absorbs 90 percent of the solar energy that falls on it. It heats up, holds more of that heat from year to year, and makes it harder for ice to form again in the fall and winter.

So Arctic temperatures rise. From January through August 2005, they were 3.6 to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the long-term average across most of the region.

As of Tuesday, NSIDC reported that the summer sea ice this year had shrunk to the fourth-smallest September minimum on record. Some refreezing has begun, but parts of the polynya were continuing to melt, so the final totals are uncertain.

If current rates of summer melting continue, NSIDC researchers have said, the Arctic Ocean could be completely ice-free in summer before the end of this century.

Serreze stopped short of blaming this summer's giant polynya on global warming. “To be honest, it's hard to draw a direct link. The sea ice is inherently quite variable,” he said. “But to get a big patch of open water out there in the multi-year ice, which is thinning and loosening up, it's not a surprising event in the context of global warming.”

Precisely what caused this polynya to open up when and where it did will remain a mystery until scientists can investigate further.

For climatologist Claire L. Parkinson, a senior scientist at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., what's significant is not the polynya, but the appearance of so much open water.

“The fact of decreasing ice coverage is certainly a concern,” she said. And “it's certainly thought to be related to the warming of the Arctic region which has been occurring for these past three decades.”

Smaller polynyas open up every year in other parts of the Arctic, where steady winds and warm ocean currents part the ice. Their predictability attracts many species of animals who rely on them for sustenance, especially in winter, said Ian Stirling, a research scientist with the Canadian Wildlife Service.

Sunlight on the open water encourages algae blooms. That provides the foundation for a food chain used by crustaceans, fish and whales. And the marine bounty attracts birds, walruses and seals, which are in turn hunted by polar bears.

“The location of bird colonies in most areas of the high Arctic are determined by the distribution of recurring polynyas along the coastline,” Stirling said.

For biologists, the largest and most important recurring lake is the North Water Polynya. Located in the strait between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, the water is kept open even in winter by persistent northwest winds.

Polynyas can also attract whales — some of whom stay too long and are fatally trapped as the ice refreezes, an event Greenlanders call “sassats.”

In October 1988, three gray whales got trapped in a small polynya as it refroze off the North Slope of Alaska, five miles from the nearest open water. They were eventually rescued by a Russian ice breaker, a spectacle that attracted worldwide media attention.

Stirling said arctic whales already have begun their annual migration westward from their summer feeding grounds in the Beaufort Sea along the coast of Alaska toward their wintering grounds in the Bering Sea.

“It's possible a few might head through that area (of the giant polynya),” he said. But it's unlikely they'll get stuck there.

Shrinking summer sea ice means a diminishing habitat for seal species that rest and give birth on the ice. An early breakup of the ice can separate nursing seal pups from their mothers, leading to higher death rates. In 2002, hundreds of seal pups drowned when their mothers failed to find any ice, and gave birth in the open water.

Polar bears depend on sea ice, too, for access to the seals they eat to survive. When the summer melt comes, they must retreat to land or more permanent ice until the summer ice refreezes.

With less time to feed on the ice, the bears lose weight and don't reproduce as well. From 1981 to 1998, scientists in Hudson Bay found that fewer polar bear cubs were being born, and those that survived were 15 percent lighter than normal.

Fortunately, this summer's giant polynya is probably not a biological hotspot or hazard, Stirling said.

First, it formed over deep ocean water, and not the more biologically productive continental shelf. “The more open water will stimulate a little bit of extra primary productivity” among plankton and algae, he said. But this polynya opened too late in the season to produce very much new life.

It may also attract a number of seals, but not many fish. “Polar bears might wander by but there won't be a whole lot for them to eat,” Stirling said.

Scientists say it's not certain whether a polynya will reform in the same spot next summer. But the warming trend that made it possible is likely to continue.

“We know humans are continuing to insert greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” said Goddard's Parkinson. “As long as we're doing that, this mechanism for continued warming exists.”

Whidbey fights climate change
Whidbey News-Times
By Jessie Stensland
Aug 02 2006

Global warming is a hot issue these days.

Former Vice President Al Gore is getting rave reviews for his movie about climate change. President George Bush finally admitted last year that human activity “may” be causing global warming.

While the federal government has been resistant toward taking substantial steps to curb the problem, many individuals and communities across the nation are making efforts large and small to be part of the solution.

The city of Oak Harbor is one of them.

City leaders are participating in an innovative climate protection effort this summer with the help of Eun Soo Lim, a Columbia University graduate student. She’s working to quantify the city’s contribution of greenhouse gases.

Afterward, she’ll present an action plan to the City Council with practical ways the city government and the community at large can cut fuel and electricity consumption.

“There are everyday, little things that can add up,” Lim said. Using a bicycle whenever possible, for example, is a great way to cut fuel consumption, with added benefit of exercise.

The City Council passed a resolution at their last meeting to participate in the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, a voluntary program to combat global warming. It’s sponsored by a group of local governments with a really long name, the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives — Local Government for Sustainability, along with the Northwest Clean Air Agency.

The resolution itself is a miniature lesson on global warming.

“Scientific consensus has developed that Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere have a profound effect on the Earth’s climate...” it states. “In 2006 the U.S. National Climatic Data Center confirmed clear evidence of human influence on climate due to changes in greenhouse gases.”

Many communities in the state are taking part in the program. Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said her town and Langley are sharing a graduate student, Mariah VanZerr. She’s giving an update on the project and a PowerPoint presentation, titled “Practical Solutions to Global Warming,” at the Town Council meeting at 6:30, next Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Many people feel that part of the solution is to change people’s everyday habits.

“The idea is for the city to take the lead in educating the community to take steps to reduce greenhouse gases,” said Oak Harbor interim City Supervisor Cathy Rosen. “We want to be a good steward and set a good example.”

In fact, Rosen said the city has been trying to become “greener” for years. There’s the recycling program, the new playground made from recycled materials and two new city-owned Ford Escape hybrids.

The city was awarded a grant for diesel retrofits on garbage trucks, which will dramatically reduce their greenhouse emissions. Sandra Place, the city’s equipment and purchasing coordinator, researched and wrote the grant applications.

While global warming might not seem like a terrible thing for those who live on temperate Whidbey Island, climate experts warn that it will have profound and unpredictable impacts on the Pacific Northwest.

A report by the University of Washington’s Climate Impact Group warns that planning should begin now to deal with global warming impacts on snowpack, salmon, hydroelectricity, agriculture and the ski industry.

Lim points out that even a small increase in average yearly temperatures will melt huge amounts of the snowpack in the mountains, which is the state’s natural water reservoir. Snowpack was been declining in the West over the last 40 years as temperatures increase. Less snow in the mountains will impact the timing and volume of stream flow.

That’s an important consideration for Oak Harbor since the city depends on water piped in from the Skagit River.

“Everything is connected to global warming,” Lim said. “Human health, the economy, wildlife, agriculture — our everyday life. It’s really important not to ignore this.”

Lim said she is working for “10 intense weeks” in the city public works department. She’s currently working with Puget Sound Energy, Cascade Natural Gas and Amerigas, as well as the Washington State Department of Transportation and Island Transit.

She’ll use data from the agencies and companies to develop a profile of energy consumption for both the city government.

Once the profile is completed, she’ll create a targeted action plan with ways in which the city and community can cut consumption, with specific goals for the future.

“Most of the program will require the city spending money in the beginning,” she said, “but the long-term savings will be a huge benefit.”

Earth Hottest It's Been in 2,000 Years
By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writer
Jun 22, 4:51 PM EDT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Earth is running a slight fever from greenhouse gases, after enjoying relatively stable temperatures for 2,000 years. The National Academy of Sciences, after reconstructing global average surface temperatures for the past two millennia, said Thursday the data are "additional supporting evidence ... that human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming."

Other new research showed that global warming produced about half of the extra hurricane-fueled warmth in the North Atlantic in 2005, and natural cycles were a minor factor, according to Kevin Trenberth and Dennis Shea of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, a research lab sponsored by the National Science Foundation and universities.

The academy had been asked to report to Congress on how researchers drew conclusions about the Earth's climate going back thousands of years, before data was available from modern scientific instruments. The academy convened a panel of 12 climate experts, chaired by Gerald North, a geosciences professor at Texas A&M University, to look at the "proxy" evidence before then, such as tree rings, corals, marine and lake sediments, ice cores, boreholes and glaciers.

Combining that information gave the panel "a high level of confidence that the last few decades of the 20th century were warmer than any comparable period in the last 400 years," the panel wrote. It said the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia," though it was relatively warm around the year 1000 followed by a "Little Ice Age" from about 1500 to 1850.
Their conclusions were meant to address, and they lent credibility to, a well-known graphic among climate researchers - a "hockey-stick" chart that climate scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes created in the late 1990s to show the Northern Hemisphere was the warmest it has been in 2,000 years.

It had compared the sharp curve of the hockey blade to the recent uptick in temperatures - a 1 degree rise in global average surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere during the 20th century - and the stick's long shaft to centuries of previous climate stability.

That research is "likely" true and is supported by more recent data, said John "Mike" Wallace, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington and a panel member.

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Science Committee, had asked the academy for the report last year after the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, launched an investigation of the three climate scientists.

The Bush administration has maintained that the threat from global warming is not severe enough to warrant new pollution controls that the White House says would have cost 5 million Americans their jobs.

"This report shows the value of Congress handling scientific disputes by asking scientists to give us guidance," Boehlert said Thursday. "There is nothing in this report that should raise any doubts about the broad scientific consensus on global climate change."

The academy panel said it had less confidence in the evidence of temperatures before 1600.

But it considered the evidence reliable enough to conclude there were sharp spikes in carbon dioxide and methane, the two major "greenhouse" gases blamed for trapping heat in the atmosphere, beginning in the 20th century, after remaining fairly level for 12,000 years.

Between 1 A.D. and 1850, volcanic eruptions and solar fluctuations had the biggest effects on climate. But those temperature changes "were much less pronounced than the warming due to greenhouse gas" levels by pollution since the mid-19th century, the panel said.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization chartered by Congress to advise the government of scientific matters.

We think they dumped the idea...because of use of coal.
NRG's Daring Idea;  A new plant in Montville would produce a fuel that would be an alternative to oil and gas.

By Day Staff Writer 
Published on 4/18/2006
NRG, a company that operates electrical plants in Montville and several other towns in Connecticut, doesn't have a radical reputation. But that might change with the news that the company wants to build a new plant at its Montville site using innovative technology. The importance of this proposal goes far beyond the prospect of adding more engineering jobs in the region, something that would happen if NRG's plans come to fruition.

This proposed plant, if built, could become a model for the nation, since NRG wants it to produce an alternative fuel to run its 800-megawatt electrical generation plant.

The company proposes to build a facility on site to produce fuel from coal. This fuel could replace using either natural gas or oil to produce electricity. The prices of gas and oil have soared in recent years, contributing to the stupendous rise in Connecticut electrical rates. NRG proposes to replace these fuels, now used in its Montville plant, with syngas, a fuel that is processed from coal and coal byproducts in a process called coal gasification. Until recently, the process was thought to be too expensive to be cost-effective. But the process becomes financially viable when oil sells at $45 a barrel or more — which it has for months.

Curt Morgan, president of NRG's Northeast region, said the company wants to build a plant to produce syngas in Montville because the site has access to water from the Thames River for the production process. It also has easy access to rail, which would be used to deliver the coal. Using coal to make the syngas also produces several other byproducts, such as slag, which is used as a base in highway construction and hydrogen sulfide, used in making concrete. An unfortunate by-product is carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming. This, however, would be captured and piped underground, according to Mr. Morgan.

Sequestering the gas is expensive, though. Some industry analysts put the price at $100 a ton, and for a plant this large the cost could be many millions of dollars every year. Others say, though, that the carbon dioxide from this process is so pure it can be sold to the carbonated beverage industry.

In any event, NRG says this plant would be the largest of its kind in the nation. If the project survives environmental permitting and regulatory scrutiny, it could produce electricity at a lower cost than is now available in Connecticut. This is an important proposal and represents the kind of innovative thinking that is vital for America's energy needs.

The world is running out of easily accessible oil, and consequently, the price of oil is rising. The difference between supply and demand is now so slim that an errant hurricane in the wrong place can drive up prices, as the U.S. saw last September after Hurricane Katrina.

Natural gas supplies are strained as well. In the last five years, so many companies built so many electrical generators that run on natural gas that gas prices soared, contradicting predictions that the price would remain level for decades.

Nuclear fuel in this environment is economical, but nuclear plants take years to build.

Coal, on the other hand, is America's most abundant fuel. The amount of coal reserves are vast, and depending on estimates, the country has anywhere from 200 to 800 years' supply.

If coal can be used to produce electricity in a way that does not pollute the environment, America could be that much closer to solving its energy crisis. It could also help the state. Connecticut's energy demand rises at about 1.5 percent a year. This doesn't sound like much, but meeting this state's electricity needs means that the equivalent of a 600-megawatt plant has to be built about every seven years.

In this environment, NRG's proposed plant could be a great contribution. Obviously, the proposal should be the object of rigorous scrutiny and extensive public hearings. Give the company credit, though, for looking at an old problem in a new way.

Scientists:Sound data troubling
Article created: 04/09/2006 4:43 AM EDT
BRIDGEPORT — Scientists who study Long Island Sound predicted Saturday a bleak future of rising sea levels, warming water and increasing numbers of invasive undersea species.  But, in an undercurrent of dark humor, they agreed that if the polar ice caps break up, melt and push sea levels 30 feet higher, the colder water might bring back the Sound's lobster population.

And don't forget the real estate land rush for new Long Island Sound beachfront communities in, say, Trumbull. But during the 16th annual Long Island Sound Summit, Gina McCarthy, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said that at the local level, people must ignore the potential for doom and gloom. 
Instead, she called for incremental efforts to tackle global warming, from buying energy efficient cars and appliances, to upgrading their home heating and cooling systems.  She and the scientists agree that at the state level, Connecticut is among the leaders in promoting the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions linked to global warming.

"We're going to drive the nation into doing what it has to do about climate change," McCarthy told about 150 people gathered from throughout the region during the daylong summit, held in the Holiday Inn. "Times have changed, and we have to get the hint."

McCarthy said she believes that part of her job is to act as an ecological evangelist to promote change without inciting fear. "The challenges are large and we have to work together," she said, adding that the Sound faces solid short-term threats, including the proposed mammoth Broadwater Energy platform and the less-noticeable, long-term dangers.

"There's no question there's a direct impact on aquatic life that we're already seeing," she said.  Indeed, scientists agreed that the infamous lobster die-off of 1999 coincided with an unusual spike in Sound temperature.

Unfortunately, the trend over the last 150 years has been increasingly warmer Sound temperatures and rising water levels that have increased annually from 1.7 mm per year in 1850, to 3 mm a year now. However small, that rise, according to Johan Varekamp, Ph.D., a Wesleyan University scientist who studies mud-core samples, is triple the rate of the previous 1,500 years.

He said that the levels of mercury at the mouth of the Housatonic River are directly linked to the 1955 floods that scoured mercury-tainted sediment from the Danbury area, where the hazardous metal was used in the manufacturer of hats.  The displacement of the agricultural economy by manufacturing and the rise of the suburbs and population growth have also contributed to the Sound's problems, Varekamp said.

"Our waste products, when we flush the toilet, we know where they go," Varekamp said. "We shouldn't blame the sewage treatment plants, we should blame ourselves. The moment we started increasing population density, the Sound was in trouble."

"Something serious is changing the ecosystem," said Ellen Thomas, a Ph.D. at Yale University who says the smallest members of the Sound's food chain are being threatening by invasive species.

R. Lawrence Swanson, another Ph.D. who studies water quality at Stony Brook University on Long Island, said that spring is arriving earlier each year and prevailing wind patterns have been shifting away from the historic northwest breezes.

Robert Whitlach, a UConn Ph.D., said invasive species have changed the Sound's ecology since a green crab infestation back in 1880, but currently, a dangerous variety of Mediterranean sea squirt is in the process of covering the bottom of the east end of the Sound.  And with an outer covering like stomach acid, it could present a major threat to life on the sea floor and the food chain, he said, adding that the eastern end of the Sound recently experienced its warmest winter water temperature since 1978.

David Conover, a Stony Brook Ph.D. who studies fisheries, said it's clear that the warming Sound is attracting fish that thrive in southern waters, while colder-water species are vanishing.  That's why the numbers of weakfish, hickory shad and black sea bass are rising, while lobster and winter flounder are dropping.

"There's been a very disturbing pattern of declining abundance," Conover said.

Solar Energy: A Rare Success Story As Cost Of Power Soars
By Maura Casey
Published on 3/5/2006

Bob Chew of Barrington, R.I., is an idealist. He said he wanted to help change the world in the 1970s, so he started a company to install solar power projects to help the country reduce its reliance on imported oil. But President Ronald Reagan and Congress nearly snuffed out the solar industry in the 1980s, when they ended federal tax incentives for renewable energy.

“Ninety percent of solar companies in the country went away after that,” Chew said, and he turned to installing kitchens instead. But electric deregulation helped the solar industry come roaring back in the late 1990s. By 2000, he revived his solar energy company, SolarWrights, once again. In the years since he and his employees have become increasingly busy. Recently, Chew opened an office in Stonington and became one of the dozen or so electrical contractors designated by the state of Connecticut to construct residential solar energy projects that qualify for state grants.

The renewal of the solar energy industry in Connecticut and New England has become one of the few real victories of electric deregulation. Opening the market to competition has brought little but higher prices for just about everyone. The Connecticut Light & Power rate increase of 22 percent in January and the prospect of a similar increase next year have left people openly discussing what a colossal sham energy competition has been.

Yet electric deregulation has made Connecticut a national leader in helping ratepayers conserve energy. Further, state and federal support for renewable energy has given residents compelling reasons to give solar power serious consideration.

Such a system is too expensive, you say? Bear with me. First, a few numbers. A typical homeowner in Connecticut uses about 700 kilowatt hours of electricity a month, which costs about $1,400 a year. A 5-kilowatt solar power system consisting of photo-voltaic panels, placed on the roof or on the ground nearby, would be able to produce enough energy just about to cover three-quarters of the power an average ratepayer uses during the course of a month.

Without state subsidies, such a solar power system would cost about $45,000 to construct, meaning that anyone who shells out that kind of cash would be paying ahead for his electric bills for decades to come.

But a state law passed two years ago has made such a system far more affordable.

In 2004, the General Assembly passed a law that authorized a state subsidy of $5 per watt for residents who construct a solar system for their homes. That amounts to a cool $25,000 on a 5-kilowatt system, which knocks the price down from $45,000 to $20,000. Residents don't have to haggle for the money, either. The state gives the rebates to state-designated solar power contractors such as Chew when they finish constructing each residential system.

The Connecticut Housing Investment Fund also has made 1-, 3- and 6-percent loans available for people interested in putting in a solar power system in their homes, and the income guidelines are generous — a married couple can make up to about $100,000 in gross adjusted income to qualify for the loans. The people at the fund say that it takes about two to three weeks for approval.

And last year the federal government sweetened the pot even further. The recently-passed energy bill authorized a $2,000 federal tax credit for taxpayers who put in such solar power systems in their homes. There's a catch, though — it can't be used to heat a swimming pool or a Jacuzzi. The tax credit would reduce the cost of a 5-kilowatt system to about $18,000.

There's more. If a bill proposed in the General Assembly passes, the cost of constructing a system of solar power would go still lower. The sales taxes on the photo-voltaic panels needed for a five-kilowatt system costs about $1,800. The proposed bill would exempt the panels from those taxes.

So a system that started out with a price tag of $45,000 could end up costing just about $16,000 — still expensive, yet within the realm of possibility for many. And, with state electric prices slated to go nowhere but up, it's possible that the system would pay for itself in less than 10 years if prices escalate.

Is it making any difference? Not yet. Under the state program, about 40 such systems have been completed, and 48 are in the pipeline, according to Charlie Moret, communications director for Connecticut Innovations, which administers the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and the solar program. It would take about 200 homes putting in place a 5-kilowatt system to take one megawatt of power off the grid. Connecticut uses between 5,000 and 6,000 megawatts of power a year. “It's moving in the right direction,” says Moret.

It makes Chew optimistic. He says he's busy, and he thinks he'll stay that way for awhile. He still wants to help the country get off its addiction to imported oil, just as he did three decades ago. With the help of state subsidies, he's doing it, one solar panel at a time.

Experts Predict Most Glaciers Will Vanish From Alps By 2050; Scientists say problem is occurring worldwide
By William Kole, Associated Writer   

Published on 1/23/2007  
Vienna, Austria — Glaciers will all but disappear from the Alps by 2050, scientists warned Monday, basing their bleak outlook on mounting evidence of slow but steady melting of the continental ice sheets.  In western Austria's Alpine province of Tyrol, glaciers have been shrinking by about 3 percent a year, said Roland Psenner of the University of Innsbruck's Institute for Ecology.

And 2050 is a conservative estimate, he said: If they keep melting at that rate, most glaciers could vanish by 2037.

“The future looks rather liquid,” he said.

Experts at a regional conference on the Alps, held annually in the mountain resort of Alpbach, stopped short of blaming global warming. But they called for a review of preventive measures to protect people living in valleys at risk of dangerous flooding.

Runoff from melting glaciers caused severe flooding that devastated parts of Switzerland in the summer of 2005.

Glacial melting is a global problem, according to the Zurich-based World Glacier Monitoring Service, which keeps tabs on 30 ice sheets in nine mountain ranges worldwide and says their average mass is steadily eroding.

Glaciers are the planet's largest source of fresh water after polar ice, which scientists say also is melting to 100-year lows. In Europe, they're also hugely popular with skiers and snowboarders seeking year-round thrills and help anchor a multimillion-dollar tourist industry.

In 2005, glacier thickness decreased by an average of 231/2 inches, and in 2004 by an average of 271/2 inches, the Swiss agency said, citing preliminary measurements. Since 1980, it said, Europe's glaciers have lost about 311/2 feet of ice. About 7 feet melted away in a single summer — 2003 — when a heat wave zapped much of Europe, said Michael Zemp, a glacier expert at the University of Zurich.

“What's important for a glacier is winter snow accumulation and a cold summer with not a lot of melting,” Zemp said Monday in a telephone interview. “A bad year for a glacier is a dry winter and a hot summer, and these are the conditions we've been seeing.

“Glaciers have been in a general retreat worldwide since the end of the last Ice Age.”

Forecasting their demise is problematic “because we don't know what scenarios there will be, and there are a range of scenarios,” Zemp said. “This isn't a weather forecast. But we are seeing an accelerated glacial melting.”

In the 13 years spanning 1991-2004, twice as much glacial ice melted away in Europe than in the 30 preceding years from 1961-1990, climatologists say.

To be sure, a few glaciers have more staying power: Switzerland's Great Aletsch Glacier is still more than a half-mile thick and seems destined to survive well into the 22nd century.

But data collected by aircraft and satellites since 2002 has shown that many of Earth's estimated 160,000 glaciers from the Rocky Mountains to the Himalayas have been shrinking.

Scientists say the phenomenon has been occurring for more than a century, suggesting that manmade emissions of carbon dioxide are combining with purely natural factors, such as a shift in jet streams pumping warmer air into traditionally cooler northern climes.

Even in Austria, a relatively sparsely populated country of 8.2 million people, passenger cars alone chug 11.4 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, the nation's leading automobile club said Monday.

It urged commuters to consider walking or cycling to work, and called on motorists to ease back, saying a recent study showed that 10 percent of drives covers less than a half-mile — a distance easily traveled on foot or with a bike.

Europeans, meanwhile, have fretted and sweated their way through an unusually balmy winter that has shattered temperature records and forced World Cup ski organizers to cancel competitions for lack of snow.

“Winter has been in a holding pattern,” said Gerhard Baumgartner, a meteorologist with Austria's national weather service.

Consensus grows on climate change
By Roger Harrabin, Environment Correspondent, BBC News
1 March 2006

The global scientific body on climate change is expected to report soon that emissions from humankind is the only explanation for major changes on Earth.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) formerly said greenhouse gases were "probably" to blame.  Its next draft report will be sent to world governments next month.

The BBC has learnt the report will state that greenhouse gas emissions are the only explanation for changing patterns of weather across the globe.  It will say rising concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere must be the cause of simultaneous freak patterns in sea ice, glaciers, droughts, floods, ecosystems, ocean acidification and wildlife migrations.

A source said: "The measurements from the natural world on all parts of the globe have been anomalous over the past decade.

"If a few were out of kilter we wouldn't be too worried because the Earth changes naturally. But the fact that they are virtually all out of kilter makes us very concerned."

He said the report would forecast that a doubling of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere would bring a temperature rise of 2C - 4.5C, or maybe higher.  This is an increase on projections in the last IPCC report, which suggested that the rise could be as little as 1.5C.

Uncertainties remain

The scientists will say there is still great uncertainty about the pace and scope of future change, although by the end of the century global temperatures could increase by up to 5.8C.  The doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial stable levels (270 parts per million) is expected to happen around the middle of the century.

What really worries the scientists is that we are already seeing major disruptions despite having increased CO2 by just 30%.  A recent scientific report commissioned by the UK government warned that the world may already be fixed on a path that would begin melting the Greenland ice cap.  That in turn would start raising sea levels throughout the world.

There will be sceptics, predominantly in the US, who will accuse the IPCC of trying to scare policy-makers into action with their report.

But the broad international expert consensus embodied in the IPCC will make it harder for the US administration to say that climate change is a problem for the future which can be solved by technological advances.  In a meeting with climate campaigners, the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the world needed to engage the Americans, Chinese and Indians in agreement over a figure for CO2 stabilisation.

But this is unlikely to happen while President Bush is in office; his representative told the December climate conference in Montreal that the US would not agree any targets for reducing CO2.

President Bush's chief adviser James Connaughton said recently that it was pointless discussing a safe CO2 level as we could not be sure how resistant the world would be to greenhouse gases.

Maybe we could double CO2 with impunity, or maybe we could increase it threefold or fourfold; the issue was not worth discussing, he said.

Targets and timetables needed

Mr Blair echoed President Bush's call for new technologies to combat climate change.

But both men were told by international business leaders last year that more expensive new technologies would not supplant cheap dirty technologies unless governments set binding targets and timetables for reducing greenhouse gases, which the US has rejected.

The prime minister confirmed that his long-delayed climate strategy review would be published this month, and would strive to meet his unilateral target of cutting Britain's CO2 emissions by 20% by 2010.

BBC News has been told that the central policy in the review, the CO2 cut for big business, is still being contested, with the prime minister's industry adviser Geoffrey Norris urging a more lax target than the one demanded by the environment department Defra.

Central figures in the review process are now admitting that the 20% target will be virtually impossible to hit, and are looking for a "respectable" near miss.

The definition of "respectable" is still under ferocious debate.

As Global Warming Becomes Accepted, Scientists Asking: Is It Too Late To Fix?
Published on 1/30/2006

Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.

This “tipping point” scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.

There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.

The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would “imply changes that constitute practically a different planet.”

“It's not something you can adapt to,” Hansen said in an interview. “We can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do something.”

Princeton University geosciences and international affairs professor Michael Oppenheimer, who also advises the advocacy group Environmental Defense, said one of the greatest dangers lies in the disintegration of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets, which together hold about 20 percent of the fresh water on the planet. If either of the two sheets disintegrates, sea level could rise nearly 20 feet in the course of a couple of centuries, swamping the southern third of Florida and Manhattan up to the middle of Greenwich Village.

While both the Greenland and the Antarctic ice sheets as a whole are gaining some mass in their cold interiors because of increasing snowfall, they are losing ice along their peripheries. That indicates that scientists may have underestimated the rate of disintegration they face in the future, Oppenheimer said. Greenland's current net ice loss is equivalent to an annual 0.008 inch sea level rise.

The effects of the collapse of either ice sheet would be “huge,” Oppenheimer said. “Once you lost one of these ice sheets, there's really no putting it back for thousands of years, if ever.”

Last year the British government sponsored a scientific symposium on “Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change,” which examined a number of possible tipping points. A book based on that conference, due to be published Tuesday, suggests that disintegration of the two ice sheets becomes more likely if average temperatures rise by more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit, a prospect “well within the range of climate change projections for this century.”

The report concludes that a temperature rise of just 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit “is likely to lead to extensive coral bleaching,” destroying critical fish nurseries in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. Too-warm sea temperatures stress corals, causing them to expel symbiotic micro-algae that live in their tissues and provide them with food, and thus making the reefs appear bleached. Bleaching that lasts longer than a week can kill corals. This fall there was widespread bleaching from Texas to Trinidad that killed broad swaths of corals, in part because ocean temperatures were 2 degrees Fahrenheit above average monthly maximums.

Many scientists are also worried about a possible collapse of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation, a current that brings warm surface water to northern Europe and returns cold, deep-ocean water south. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who directs Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, has run multiple computer models to determine when climate change could disrupt this “conveyor belt,” which, according to one study, is already slower than it was 30 years ago. According to these simulations, there is a 50 percent chance the current will collapse within 200 years.

Some scientists, including President Bush's chief science adviser, John Marburger III, emphasize that much uncertainty remains about when abrupt global warming might occur.

“There's no agreement on what it is that constitutes a dangerous climate change,” said Marburger, adding that the U.S. government spends $2 billion a year on researching this and other climate change questions. “We know things like this are possible, but we don't have enough information to quantify the level of risk.”

This tipping point debate has stirred controversy within the administration; Hansen said senior political appointees are trying to block him from sharing his views publicly.

When Hansen posted data on the Internet last fall suggesting that 2005 could be the warmest on record, according to a Goddard scientist who did not want to be identified, NASA officials ordered Hansen to withdraw the information because he had not screened it with the administration in advance. More recently, NASA officials tried to discourage a reporter from interviewing Hansen for this article and later insisted he could speak on the record only if an agency spokeswoman listened in on the conversation.

“They're trying to control what's getting out to the public,” Hansen said, adding that many of his colleagues are afraid to talk about the issue. “They're not willing to say much because they've been pressured and they're afraid they'll get into trouble.”

But Mary Cleave, deputy associate administrator for NASA's Office of Earth Science, said the agency insists on monitoring interviews with scientists to ensure they are not misquoted.

“People could see it as a constraint,” Cleave said. “As a manager, I might see it as protection.”

John Christy, director of the Earth Science System Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, said increased warming could possibly be offset by other factors, such as increased cloudiness that would reflect more sunlight. “Whatever happens, we will adapt to it,” Christy said.

Scientists who read the history of Earth's climate in ancient sediments, ice cores and fossils find clear signs that it has shifted abruptly in the past on a scale that could prove disastrous for modern society. Peter deMenocal, an associate professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, said that about 8,200 years ago, a very sudden cooling shut down the Atlantic ocean conveyor belt. As a result, the land temperature in Greenland dropped more than 9 degrees Fahrenheit within a decade or two.

“It's not this abstract notion that happens over millions of years,” deMenocal said. “The magnitude of what we're talking about greatly, greatly exceeds anything we've withstood in human history.”

These kinds of concerns have spurred some governments to make major cuts in the carbon dioxide emissions linked to global warming. Britain has slashed its emissions by 14 percent, compared with 1990 levels and aims to reduce them by 60 percent by 2050. Some European countries, however, are lagging well behind their targets under the international Kyoto climate treaty.

David Warrilow, who heads science policy on climate change for Britain's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that while the science remains unsettled, his government has decided to take a precautionary approach. He compared consuming massive amounts of fossil fuels to the strategy of the Titanic's crew, who were unable to avoid an iceberg because they were speeding across the Atlantic in hopes of breaking a record.

“We know there are icebergs out there, but at the moment we're accelerating toward the tipping point,” Warrilow said in an interview. “This is silly. We should be doing the opposite, slowing down whilst we build up our knowledge base.”

The Bush administration espouses a different approach. Marburger said that while everyone agrees carbon dioxide emissions should decline, the United States prefers to promote cleaner technology rather than impose mandatory greenhouse gas limits. “The U.S. is the world leader in doing something on climate change because of its actions on changing technology,” he said.

Stanford University climatologist Stephen Schneider, who is helping oversee a major international assessment of how climate change could expose humans and the environment to new vulnerabilities, said countries respond differently to the global warming issue in part because they are affected differently by it. The small island nation of Kiribati is made up of 33 small atolls, none of which is more than 6.5 feet above the South Pacific, and it is only a matter of time before the entire country is submerged by the rising sea.

“For Kiribati, the tipping point has already occurred,” Schneider said. “As far as they're concerned, it's tipped, but they have no economic clout in the world.”

Wall of water department...7 Oct. 2005 article

Last Updated: Sunday, 14 August 2005, 07:44 GMT 08:44 UK
Icy Greenland turns green
By Richard Hollingham
BBC News, Greenland
Greenland's ice is melting rapidly. In some places, glacial levels have been falling by 10 metres a year and ultimately contributing to rising sea levels. Travelling to Greenland, Richard Hollingham sees the impact of climate change for himself.

The gleaming white executive jet taxied to a stop on the cracked concrete apron beside a couple of derelict hangers.  Beyond the rusty barbed wire and crude prefabricated buildings surrounding the airport perimeter, cliffs of dark granite rose from the valley to blend with the equally ominous grey of the sky.

No trees, no colour, no signs of life.

The door of the private plane swung down.  Onlookers, had there been any, might have caught a glimpse of the deep leather seats and walnut panelling of the interior. 
Perhaps a group of sharp suited executives would emerge looking dynamic and business-like. Or perhaps some sinister men-in-black types, here on covert government business.

The first person to climb down was wearing oversized shorts, stout walking boots and a hat that looked like it had seen rather more of the world than it was perhaps designed for. The next man was dressed in a clashing array of outdoor clothing and sported large tortoise-shell glasses and an unkempt beard. Each man muttered something about the landscape being bleak.  I would like to be able to tell you that when the BBC descended from the plane we stood apart with our sartorial elegance.

But if you have ever met any BBC types, particularly radio reporters, you would know that would be a lie.


We had landed at Kangerlussuaq, a community whose existence depends solely on the airstrip.  This used to be a bustling US base, servicing America's early warning system.  These days it is somewhat self perpetuating. The airport brings in supplies for the people who live here who mostly work at the airport.

I was tagging along with a group of eminent scientists, funded through the foundation of a billionaire philanthropist, Gary Comer. He has devoted his retirement to the science of global warming.

The researchers all make regular visits to the Arctic to assess the impact of climate change, not, it should be said, always in such comfort.

Retreating glaciers

Greenland is a massive island locked in ice. And from the air there is little evidence that it is melting.  Its enormous ice cap, a sea of white stretching seemingly forever, overflows into thousands of glaciers.  These in turn carve their way through the mountains to the coast.  It is only when you get near to the base of the glaciers that you can see how the landscape is changing.

A few metres above the ice, the rock is totally bare. A scar running horizontally across the valleys.  It is as if the ice has been drained away, like water in a bath, to leave a tide mark. Which is, in effect, what has happened. The ice has melted and the glaciers have retreated hundreds of metres over the past 150 years.

New vegetation

The weather cleared and with the edge of the glacier, a giant wall of ice behind us, glaciologist Richard Alley led me across the barren rock. As I tripped and stumbled behind him, he bounded through scree and leapt over crevasses.  I have never seen a scientist more in his element as he pointed out deep grooves in the rock where the ice had raked the stone, or the giant boulders lifted by the glacier to balance precariously on top of tiny pebbles.

This land was being exposed for the first time for millions of years. Even a century ago, where I stood would have been solid ice, and I was struck by just how much vegetation there was.

Phillip, the biologist on the trip, was every bit as excited as Richard, identifying the dark brown lichens on the rocks, the grasses and beautiful purple flowers somehow managing to cling to just a few millimetres of soil.

Agricultural return

The Earth's climate has warmed before, albeit naturally.  A ruined church on the banks of a fjord marks the remains of a Viking farming civilisation.

The sun casts shadows through the arched window to the site of the altar, last used in the 1400s before the area was abandoned when it became too cold to support habitation. Today, the farmers are back.  Sheep once again graze the surrounding hillside and shiny new tractors work the fields near the southern coast.

Greenland is turning green, something the rest of us should be very worried about indeed.

Pile-up as berg hits Antarctica
B15A (right) broke off a 5km-long section of Drygalski

I-BBC Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 12:16 GMT 13:16 UK

An iceberg the size of Luxembourg has smashed into another vast slab of ice that juts out from Antarctica.

The 115km-long B-15A iceberg broke off a 5km-long section of the Drygalski ice tongue when it collided with the protruding ice rivet in the Ross Sea.  The iceberg itself so far appears unaffected by the smash-up.  More of the B-15A iceberg still has to pass by Drygalski, so the ice tongue may be in for even more punishment in the coming days, experts have said.

The European Space Agency's Earth-observation platform Envisat has returned some remarkable images of the collision.

Prevailing currents

From January, the iceberg has been on a collision course with the 70-km-long Drygalski ice tongue in McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea.  In the last month, prevailing currents have been slowly edging B-15A along past the northern edge of Drygalski.  B-15A has an area exceeding 2,500 sq km and is the largest remaining section of the even bigger B-15 iceberg that broke off from the Ross Ice Shelf in March 2000.

Experts first noticed the berg was on a collision course in January

About the same size as Jamaica, B-15 had an initial area of 11,655 sq km but subsequently broke up into smaller pieces.  Since then, B-15A has drifted its way to McMurdo Sound, where its presence blocked ocean currents and led to a build-up of sea ice.  Because penguins had to swim greater distances to reach open waters and food, this prompted fears that many chicks could starve.

The Drygalski ice tongue stretches out from McMurdo Sound into the sea as an extension of the land-based David Glacier, which flows through the coastal mountains of Victoria Land.

It is large and permanent enough to feature in Antarctic atlases, which may now have to be amended.

Global Warming: Clear And Present?  Scientists Say Climate Changes Are Already Evident In The Region
March 9, 2005 New London DAY:

Groton— For many scientists, the question is no longer whether there is evidence of global warming, but how much the climate has changed, how the environment is being altered and how to persuade the public that dramatic changes are already happening in their own back yards and beaches.

A coalition of the state's science centers has taken on the responsibility of helping to get those messages out, beginning with a forum on Tuesday at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus. The Connecticut Science Center Collaborative is also planning a series of programs at member institutions to educate the public about how global warming is impacting the local environment.

“This is not 50 or 100 years down the road,” said Adam Markham, executive director of Clean Air – Cool Planet, an environmental advocacy organization based in Portsmouth, N.H., that helped host the event. “There have been changes already.”

Tuesday's session began with a presentation by Cameron Wake, glacial scientist at the University of New Hampshire, of his work with Clean Air – Cool Planet. Wake compiled data on average temperatures, rainfall, snowfall, length of the growing season and other indicators from a variety of sources to paint an overall picture of the many ways the Northeast climate has changed over the last 100 years. The most dramatic changes have occurred since 1970, he noted, when the average temperature for the entire Northeast rose by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, after rising by 1.8 degrees over the previous 70 years.

“The warming over the last 30 years is probably the result of human activity,” he said, referring to emissions from the burning of fossil fuels and other pollutants. The report, however, deliberately avoided analyzing precisely why the changes are occurring.

“If you need to respond to the changes, it shouldn't matter why,” he said. “You have to adapt to it. Out of the last 1,000 years, the last 100 years and especially the last 30 represents the warmest period.”

Coastal areas, including those in Connecticut and Rhode Island, are seeing some of the most pronounced effects, Wake said.

His data shows that over the last 100 years:

•Average temperatures rise by about 4 to 5 degrees from coastal New Jersey to Cape Ann, Mass. In coastal Rhode Island, the average rise is 6 to 7 degrees.

•Warming temperatures have caused average rainfall to increase by 3.3 inches throughout the Northeast, with disproportionately higher levels along the coast. Extreme storms in which more than two inches of rain fell in 48 hours or less have also doubled in frequency — even tripling in some coastal areas.

•Winters have become milder and snowfall has decreased by an average of 10 inches per winter.

•The growing season from the last frost of the spring to the first frost of fall has lengthened by an average of 15 days, longer on the coast. Lilacs, apple trees and grape vines are blooming four to eight days earlier than 100 years ago.

•Lakes frozen over in the winter are thawing 13 days earlier than they did 30 years ago. Overall fewer lakes are freezing over at all.

•Average sea levels have risen by 14 to 15 inches.

In another presentation, Tundi Agardy, executive director of Sound Seas — Washington, D.C.-based environmental consultants — said the warming sea and air temperatures and increased rainfall will cause cold-tolerant species to decline and those that thrive in warmer temperatures to multiply. Coastal lands will shrink as sea levels rise, and pollution levels will increase as sewage treatment plants become inundated by storm surges more often and wetlands that filter out pollutants become flooded. New diseases affecting humans and wildlife are also expected to spread.

Loss of coastal wetlands will also reduce crucial nursery areas for fish, Agardy said, and some migrating birds may lose food sources as animals such as the horseshoe crab spawn earlier.

“There may be an overall loss of biodiversity,” she said. “All of these may not be solely due to climate change, but they will be exacerbated by it.”

For the marine environment specifically, warming temperatures are causing some profound biological upheavals, said Robert Whitlatch, marine science professor at Avery Point. Alien species such as zebra mussels and sea squirts have spread rapidly over the last 20 years, he said, as the changes of a degree or two in the average water temperature can make what was once an inhospitable environment for these creatures hospitable. Because they have no natural predators, they proliferate and crowd out native species that may already be declining.

“Colder water species are moving north,” Whitlatch said, adding that the ranges of species that thrive in warmer waters are expanding, while the opposite is true for cold-water creatures. “Slight changes in temperature can change the community dramatically.”

He noted that winter water temperatures have risen most. This allows alien species more time to establish themselves in an area.

“Whoever gets there first has a competitive advantage,” he said.

Global warming has chilling effects
Abram Katz, Science Editor, New Haven REGISTER
Sunday, March 6, 2005

The world is warming, and worrisome changes are already upsetting the balance of nature in New England, according to one of the first regional climate studies of the United States.

Records culled from the U.S. government and stacks of studies show that rainfall, the sea level and the growing season in the Northeast have all increased over the past century.  At the same time, snowfall and the number of days with snow cover have dropped.

These are among six telling climate indicators contained in a report to be released Tuesday by the nonprofit environmental organization Clean Air — Cool Planet.

The study, which began in 2001, will be presented at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point in Groton during a daylong program.

"It indicates that New England’s climate has been getting warmer over the past 100 years and that there’s been an increase in the rate of change in the past 30 years," said Cameron Wake, research associate professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Climate Change Research Center.

Wake is one of the scientists who assembled the study.

"There have been many papers on individual indications of climate change. This study represents indicators brought together," he said.  However, this kind of work leaves people who are less certain about the greenhouse effect and carbon dioxide unimpressed.

Joseph L. Bast, president of the Heartland Institute, a nonprofit research organization in Chicago, said the results of most studies are questionable.

"All of the studies are produced by advocacy organizations. There’s little new science. All beg the questions of the human contribution and what should be done," he said. "We need to continue to do more research."

Wake rejects these criticisms out of hand.

"It’s important to infuse the debate over global warming with facts. A lot of people do not deal in facts. The goal here is to lay out what we know," he said.

Among the key data in the report are:

• Precipitation. Records from 79 stations in the Northeast show that annual rainfall increased by 8.4 inches between 1900 and 2000. Of the 10 years with the most precipitation, eight occurred since 1970.

• Intense precipitation, defined as 2 or more inches of rain over a 48-hour period. Storrs experienced about three intense storms a year before 1970. Since then the average has grown to 5.5 per year.

Stations in Amherst, Mass.; Boston; Farmington, Maine; Hartford; and Kingston, R.I. all recorded similar patterns.  Wake said that warming increases the strength of the hydrological cycle, leading to more rain and more severe storms.

Weather varies greatly from year to year, masking the larger warming trend, he said.

"There can be enormous variability and a long-term trend. Sometimes a change in variability is the trend," Wake said.

• Sea level. Since 1850, the sea level in Boston and New York has risen about 16 inches, or about 1.2 inches a decade.

One factor is that warm water expands. Between 1880 and 2001, the Gulf of Maine’s temperature climbed 1.1 degrees. Long Island Sound rose 1.6 degrees. Glaciers have also melted.

• Snowfall. On average, Central Park in New York is getting about 10 inches less snow each winter since 1890. Northern New England has shown more extreme drops.

• Snow on the ground. Less snow, more rain, and higher temperatures reduced the number of days with snow on the ground. Between 1970 and 2001 the average number of days with snow cover dropped by 16.

"The climate is a complex set of inter-relationships, but it is a coherent story," Wake said.

"All of the indicators are explainable by warmer temperatures. It’s shocking that there is so much agreement between the biosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere (snow and ice)," he said.

"Beyond a shadow of a doubt, humans have dramatically changed the nature of the atmosphere," Wake said.

That’s all well and good, said Bast, of the Heartland Institute, but important influences like cloud cover and fluctuations in solar radiation have not been sufficiently studied.  Nor has the "heat island" effect, which seems to show that temperature readings taken in cities are consistently higher than readings in open country.

"When these questions are answered the argument will end," Bast said.

Adam Markham, executive director of Clean Air — Cool Planet, said the study will be distributed to state officials and members of Congress.

"Everything that could change is changing and roughly at the same rate," Markham said. "That must be global warming."

According to the NYPOST June 7, 2009, Al Gore said...

"THE 92nd St. Y audience got a taste of former Vice President Al Gore's weird wit during the closing session of the Cornell Global Forum on Sustainable Enterprise the other night. During the panel moderated by Charlie Rose, Gore, talking about the expense of finding small pockets of oil, quipped, "It's like the way junkies find things between their toes." No word on whether Gore also used the analogy while making an earlier, cocktail-hour fund-raising stop for Andrew Cuomo."

Gore: Polar ice may vanish in 5-7 years

By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
Dec. 14, 2009

COPENHAGEN – New computer modeling suggests the Arctic Ocean may be nearly ice-free in the summertime as early as 2014, Al Gore said Monday at the U.N. climate conference. This new projection, following several years of dramatic retreat by polar sea ice, suggests that the ice cap may nearly vanish in the summer much sooner than the year 2030, as was forecast by a U.S. government agency eight months ago.

One U.S. government scientist Monday questioned the new prediction as too severe, but other researchers previously have projected a quicker end than 2030 to the Arctic summer ice cap.

"It is hard to capture the astonishment that the experts in the science of ice felt when they saw this," said former U.S. Vice President Gore, who joined Scandinavian officials and scientists to brief journalists and delegates. It was Gore's first appearance at the two-week conference.

The group presented two new reports updating fast-moving developments in Antarctica, the autonomous Danish territory of Greenland, and the rest of the Arctic.

"The time for collective and immediate action on climate change is now," said Denmark's foreign minister, Per Stig Moeller.

But delegates from 192 nations were bogged down in disputes over key issues. This further dimmed hopes for immediate action to cut more deeply into global emissions of greenhouse gases.

Gore and Danish ice scientist Dorthe Dahl Jensen clicked through two slide shows for a standing-room-only crowd of hundreds in a side event at the Bella Center conference site.

One report, on the Greenland ice sheet, was issued by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program, an expert group formed by eight Arctic governments, including the United States. The other, commissioned by Gore and Norway's government, was compiled by the Norwegian Polar Institute on the status of ice melt worldwide.

Average global temperatures have increased 0.74 degrees C (1.3 degrees F) in the past century, but the mercury has risen at least twice as quickly in the Arctic. Scientists say the makeup of the frozen north polar sea has shifted significantly in recent years as much of the thick multiyear ice has given way to thin seasonal ice.

In the summer of 2007, the Arctic ice cap dwindled to a record-low minimum extent of 4.3 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles) in September. The melting in 2008 and 2009 was not as extensive, but still ranked as the second- and third-greatest decreases on record.

Last April, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that Arctic summers could be almost ice-free within 30 years, not at the 21st century's end as earlier predicted.

Gore cited new scientific work at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, whose Arctic ice research is important for planning polar voyages by Navy submarines. The computer modeling there stresses the "volumetric," looking not just at the surface extent of ice but its thickness as well.

"Some of the models suggest that there is a 75 percent chance that the entire north polar ice cap during some of the summer months will be completely ice-free within the next five to seven years," Gore said. His office later said he meant nearly ice-free, because ice would be expected to survive in island channels and other locations.

Asked for comment, one U.S. government scientist questioned what he called this "aggressive" projection.

"It's possible but not likely," said Mark Serreze of the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado. "We're sticking with 2030."

On the other hand, a leading NASA ice scientist, Jay Zwally, said last year that the Arctic could be essentially ice-free within "five to less than 10 years."

Meanwhile, what's happening to Greenland's titanic ice sheet "has really surprised us," said Jensen of the University of Copenhagen.

She cited one huge glacier in west Greenland, at Jakobshavn, that in recent years has doubled its rate of dumping ice into the sea. Between melted land ice and heat expansion of ocean waters, the sea-level rise has increased from 1.8 millimeters a year to 3.4 millimeters (.07 inch a year to .13 inch) in the past 10 years.

Jensen said the biggest ice sheets — Greenland and West Antarctica — were already contributing 1 millimeter (.04 inch) a year to those rising sea levels. She said this could double within the next decade.

"With global warming, we have woken giants," she said.

For China-U.S. Talks on Climate, Issues Old and New
June 8, 2009

WASHINGTON — For months the United States and China, by far the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, have been warily circling each other in hopes of breaking a long impasse on global warming policy.

They are, as President Obama’s chief climate negotiator puts it, “the two gorillas in the room,” and if they do not reach some sort of truce, there is no chance of forging a meaningful international treaty in Copenhagen later this year to restrict emissions.

As a senior American team arrived in Beijing on Sunday for climate talks, the standoff was taking on the trappings of cold-war arms control negotiations, with gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions replacing megatons of nuclear might as a looming risk for people across the globe.

Both sides are demanding mutually assured reductions of emissions that are, in the current jargon, “measurable, verifiable and reportable.” In the background hover threats of massive retaliation in the form of tariffs or other trade barriers if one nation does not agree to ceilings on emissions.

“This is going to be one of the most complex diplomatic negotiations in the history of the world,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, the co-sponsor of an energy bill being debated in the House, who just returned from a week in China.

Many take the simple fact that the two nations, jointly responsible for more than 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, are even talking seriously to each other about the issue as a propitious sign after years of mutual distrust.

But there is cause for profound skepticism as well. The Chinese continue to resist mandatory ceilings on their emissions and are making financial and environmental demands on the United States that are political nonstarters.

The United States, despite optimistic words from the White House and Congress, has yet to enact any binding targets on greenhouse-gas emissions. The energy bill now before Congress proposes emissions targets that are far short of what China and other nations say they expect of the United States.

Compounding the difficulty is the fact that both countries are struggling economically and the Chinese and American publics appear far more interested in jobs than in tackling environmental problems, a task that would necessarily be costly.

The main product of the discussions with Beijing so far has therefore been agreement to hold more discussions.

Yet the clock is ticking. Only six months remains before the opening of United Nations-sponsored talks in Copenhagen to produce a climate change treaty to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. Without the full participation of the United States and China, most negotiators believe that any agreement is doomed to fail. Congress and two American presidents refused to accept the Kyoto accord, which expires in 2012, because it imposed no pollution limits on China or other developing countries. The American refusal to ratify the treaty and the lack of participation by China and other developing nations have left the pact all but toothless.

“China may not be the alpha and omega of the international negotiations, but it is close,” said Todd D. Stern, the top American climate negotiator at the three-day talks in Beijing. “Certainly no deal will be possible if we don’t find a way forward with China.”

The Obama administration has pledged to be a leader in the talks that culminate in December in Copenhagen, although it is far from clear that Congress has the will to approve emissions targets and furnish enough aid to developing countries to satisfy the Europeans, Chinese, Indians, Brazilians and other major players. Mr. Stern described the demands from China and other countries as “not serious,” and said the United States was “jumping as high as the political system will tolerate.”

As a measure of how far apart the two nations are, China says the United States should reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. The bill before Congress, which could be further weakened, now calls for less than a 4 percent reduction over that period.

The Chinese have begun to consider a series of unilateral actions to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, stepping up production of renewable electricity and increasing the efficiency of their manufacturing, buildings and vehicles. But Beijing insists it will not sacrifice China’s economy to meet the demands of outsiders, particularly those in the developed world that are responsible for the vast majority of human-caused carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.

“What they are saying right now is, ‘We can do a lot of things, but we don’t want to commit to any targets,’ ” said Jin Jiaman, executive director of the Global Environmental Institute, based in Beijing, which has helped pave the way for the current talks. “They want to preserve their right to develop.”

One of China’s senior climate negotiators, Su Wei, has said that although China will not accept absolute limits on its emissions, officials have begun to consider putting in place their own domestic targets to significantly reduce the carbon intensity of its heaviest-emitting industries. Under the current official five-year plan, China is trying to reduce the amount of energy emitted per unit of gross domestic product by approximately 20 percent by 2010, a goal it may or may not meet. Some experts question the accuracy of China’s official reports, and say it will be impossible to monitor the nation’s progress without a better system for tracking greenhouse gas pollution.

In a tough speech in Washington this week, Mr. Stern said that such modest reductions would do little to affect atmospheric concentrations of climate-altering gases. He also noted that China emitted four times as much carbon dioxide as the United States and six times as much as the European Union or Japan for every unit of gross domestic product.

“China and other developing countries do not need to take the same actions that developed countries are taking,” Mr. Stern said, “but they do need to take significant national actions that they commit to — internationally — that they quantify, and that are ambitious enough to be broadly consistent with the levels of science.”

The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, who led a delegation of lawmakers to China at the end of May, said in an interview that she was hopeful about the dialogue between the two countries but fearful that they would fall into the old trap of hiding behind each other.

“They told us if we’re not going to do something, they’re not going to do anything,” she said. “Some of the people we talked to there said we should do more. I think we should do more, too. But we all have to go down this path together.”

John M. Broder reported from Washington, and Jonathan Ansfield from Beijing.

US May Not Be Ready With Numbers for Climate Deal

Filed at 4:01 p.m. ET
June 3, 2009

BONN, Germany (AP) -- The United States may miss a December deadline for committing to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, but that should not block an international agreement on global warming, the chief U.S. negotiator said Wednesday.  Specific pledges by industrial countries to cut carbon dioxide and other gases blamed for climate change is a key element of a U.N. treaty being negotiated by 190 nations. The talks are due to be completed at a major conference in Copenhagen before the end of the year.

But Jonathan Pershing, the deputy special envoy for climate change, said U.S. climate change legislation may not be completed by then, making it impossible for U.S. negotiators to present a final number for the Copenhagen agreement.

''We will work like crazy to get it together, and we will push enormously to have legislation,'' Pershing told The Associated Press. ''But it does not block a deal. You can have a deal without having the legislation.''

The first stage in the lengthy legislative process was completed last month when a congressional committee passed a climate bill, which must go to the full House of Representatives for approval. A parallel bill must go through several Senate committees, be passed on the Senate floor and then be reconciled with the House bill. The process could easily spill into next year -- well after Copenhagen.  That means only a partial agreement might be crafted in the Danish capital, Pershing said. ''It might mean that you have a framework in place as opposed to absolute numbers. Those numbers may come a bit later,'' he said.

''It may mean that you set all the parameters and come back six months later when there is legislation,'' he said in an interview during another round of U.N. talks in this German city.

Other countries have said they will make no firm commitments until they know what the U.S. will do. The European Union has pledged to cut its emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, but said it could increase that figure to 30 percent depending on U.S. plans.  Developing countries also are reluctant to spell out specific programs for fighting climate change without a clear understanding of the package coming from the industrial states, including financial aid.

The Copenhagen deal will succeed the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required 37 countries to cut carbon emissions by a total 5 percent from 1990 levels by 2012. The U.S. rejected Kyoto, saying it was imbalanced because it made no demands on rapidly expanding developing countries. China has since overtaken the U.S. as the world's largest polluter.

In the new accord, developing countries demand that the industrial countries reduce emissions by at least 25 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. Some countries say that figure should be as high as 45 percent to avoid regular catastrophic climate events like severe drought and storms, disastrous changes in rainfall and water availability, and sea level rises threatening coastal areas.  Pershing said other crucial elements of the Copenhagen accord can be sealed that do not depend on emission reduction targets, such as financing to help poor countries adapt to climate change.

The U.S. delegation has been lobbying to shift the focus to long-term targets rather than emphasizing a 2020 goal -- it is lagging behind other countries because it did little during the eight years of the Bush administration to cut emissions.  But the EU rejects that line of reasoning, saying actions geared toward 2020 are within the life span of current leaders and governments.

By 2050 ''we'll all be dead,'' said Artur Runge-Metzger of the European Commission.

The Obama administration has pledged to cut emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, and by 83 percent by mid-century. Starting now, it says, U.S. actions to limit pollution will match the EU.  Pershing indicated he thought some countries were using the issue of targets as a means to squeeze the U.S. on other issues, which he did not specify.

''I'm not clear at all the debate is about the numbers. I think the debate is around perception, and around optics,'' he said.

With U.S. Absent, 190 Countries Celebrate Global Warming Treaty
Published on 12/13/2004, New London DAY

Buenos Aires, Argentina — With the United States keeping to the sidelines, delegates from more than 190 countries have gathered here both to celebrate the enactment of the Kyoto Protocol, the first treaty requiring cuts in greenhouse gases linked to global warming, and to look beyond 2012, when its terms expire.

Many delegates and experts concede that the pact, negotiated in 1997, is deeply flawed and that years of delays in finishing its rulebook mean that many adherents may have trouble meeting their targets for cuts in emissions. Its impact will also be limited because it exempts developing countries, including fast-industrializing giants like China and India, from restrictions on emissions, and lacks the support of the United States, the world's dominant source of the heat-trapping gases.

Nonetheless, delegates and U.N. officials said the treaty, which has been ratified by 130 countries and international blocs, and takes effect on Feb. 16, is an important step. It is the first time industrialized countries have agreed to mandatory constraints on carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas and an unavoidable byproduct of burning the fossil fuels that power modern economies. The treaty commits the three dozen industrialized countries taking part to cut combined emissions of the gases by 2012 to at least 5 percent below levels measured in 1990.

It also establishes for the first time an international trading system allowing countries to earn credits toward their treaty targets by investing in emission cleanups outside their borders.

Living at the mercy of the Sun
By David Shukman
BBC News, Punta Arenas, Chile
Thursday December 9, 2004

Twenty years ago scientists from the British Antarctic Survey made one of the most significant environmental discoveries of recent times.       Studying data gathered in hostile and difficult conditions over many decades, they stumbled on the fact that a huge hole had appeared in the layer of ozone protecting the Earth from the harmful UV radiation of the Sun.

Dr Jonathan Shanklin of the BAS, the scientist whose calculations produced the revelation, puts the breakthrough down to a combination of luck and diligence.  "We were in the right place at the right time with the right data," he told me.

The shock of the discovery - and its later confirmation by scientists in the US - led to prompt international action to curb the greenhouse gases known as CFCs believed to be damaging the ozone.  Although the Montreal Protocol banned CFCs, the effects of these highly stable and         long-lasting gases will be felt for at least another 40 years.

Once a year, in the springtime in the southern hemisphere, a combination of atmospheric conditions and the CFC chemicals starts to erode the ozone layer.  From September through to November, the hole forms over a vast area above Antarctica.  Tracked by satellite, scientists can monitor its spread as it rotates with the weather systems, and occasionally stretches over the southern part of South America.

Several times a year, one of the world's southernmost cities, Punta Arenas in Chile, falls under the hole and its inhabitants suffer the worst effects of the solar radiation - including a massively raised risk of skin cancer.

Tingling skin

The city's leading skin specialist, Dr Jaime Abaca, has studied the rates of skin cancer and has concluded that of all reported cases, the worst kind, malignant melanoma, is found in three times as many people as in other parts of the world.

"There is no doubt we are seeing the effects of the ozone problem," he told me.  Observations have also shown that the radiation that reaches      the ground is on a wavelength that is particularly damaging.  Standing in the open for more than a few minutes, I could certainly feel a gentle tingling, stinging sensation on my face and others with me felt the same. Even on cloudy days we found ourselves seeking the shade of doorways and trees.

One victim is a local radio presenter, Francisco Figueredo, who has recently been treated for skin cancer on his eye, nose and cheek.  Sitting in his home as he prepared for his evening programme of jazz, he explained that back in his younger days "we knew nothing about this problem, we were completely ignorant".

Now the city is bombarded with warnings of the UV hazard. Flags of particular colours are flown at a central intersection - they were orange for "high risk" during our visit - and the radio and TV stations broadcast daily information.

'A good tan'

Yet in one large pharmacy we visited in the centre of Punta Arenas, the manageress admitted to us that sales of sun cream were never high. I asked Auad Jaihatt whether the public heeded the UV warnings.

"No, not at all. Most people just don't seem to understand the risks of getting cancer - the message just isn't getting through", she said.  Most bizarre, as we drove through the streets of the city, we spotted an extraordinary number of tanning centres.  One studio, Cecilia International,   has 50 customers every day. One of them, Evanalla, told me she used the sun-bed three times a week.

When I asked her if she understood the risks - especially living in the city with the highest UV levels in the world - she replied that it was a matter of personal choice.  "I know all about the risks, the cancer and everything. But I feel better with a tanned skin. It is too cold here to go to the beach so this is the only chance we have."

She was adamant about a key benefit: "A good tan makes my clothes look better."

So the facts unearthed two decades ago by the British Antarctic scientists may be immoveable. But then so is human nature. The layer of ozone may be weak but the power of fashion remains strong. 

Report: County is polluted but improving
By Daniel Hendrick
Published June 13 2005

Though Fairfield County is the second most polluted county in the state, it improved dramatically in 2003, thanks to a sharp drop in emissions from power plants in Norwalk and Bridgeport.

So says the federal Environmental Protection Agency in its Toxics Release Inventory, a report the agency produces every year about which facilities are polluting the air, water and ground.

The inventory shows that in 2003, the most recent year available, 67 businesses in Fairfield County released 593,667 pounds of harmful pollutants into the air through smokestacks and ventilators, nearly a third less than the previous year.

The 2003 results made the county's air the second most toxic in Connecticut, with more hazardous emissions than Litchfield, Middlesex, Tolland and Windham counties combined. Only New Haven County registered more in 2003, with 851,808 pounds of airborne toxins released.

The largest source of toxic air emissions in Fairfield County, the inventory shows, was Spongex International, a Shelton company that produces plastic foam, which released 272,036 pounds of toluene. Exposure to low levels of toluene can cause confusion, nausea and dizziness, while high levels may affect human kidneys, according to the federal Agency for Toxics Substances and Disease Registry.

Telephone messages left at the company's office were not returned.

In lower Fairfield County, Stamford's Spartech Polycast was the top source of harmful emissions. The acrylics manufacturer said it released 29,000 pounds of methyl methacrylate that year. The chemical irritates eyes and long-term exposure can cause coughing. Spartech reported a 40 percent drop in emissions from 2002, when it ranked as the county's second-worst polluter. It is now the fourth.

Messages left at the Southfield Avenue plant and the company's Clayton, Mo., headquarters, were not returned.

Eight other facilities in lower Fairfield County reported toxic air emissions to the EPA. They were, in descending order: King Industries in Norwalk; NRG Energy in Norwalk; E.J. Gaisser in Stamford; Hicks & Otis Prints in Norwalk; Pitney Bowes in Stamford; ACMI Corp. in Stamford; P&G Clairol in Stamford; Kenneth Lynch & Sons Inc. in Wilton; ASML Inc. in Wilton; and O&G Industries in Stamford.

Power plants accounted for much of the decline of toxic air emissions. NRG's Harbor Station on Manresa Island Avenue in South Norwalk released 6,607 pounds of toxins in 2003, down nearly 9 percent from the year before. The plant's emissions include sulfuric acid, a building block of acid rain, and lead, which can cause learning deficiencies in children.

The most notable drop was at PSEG's Bridgeport Harbor plant, which reported 70 percent fewer emissions of hydrochloric acid, lead and mercury in 2003.

Jay Mandel, NRG's manager of media relations, said the decline was due to the use of cleaner fuels. In 2003, Connecticut introduced a new sulfur emissions standard -- one of the lowest in the country -- that led NRG to change to fuel oil containing 0.3 percent sulfur. Previously, the plant had used 1 percent sulfur fuel. Neil Brown, a spokesman for New Jersey-based PSEG, likewise attributed the reductions at the Bridgeport station to cleaner fuels.

Both power plants, however, produced more dioxin in 2003. The substance is one of the most hazardous chemicals known and causes cancer even at low-level exposure.

"In 2003, NRG's Norwalk plant raised its output to meet increased demand. Dioxin emissions are directly proportional to the amount of fuel oil combusted," Mandel said.

Although the Toxics Release Inventory program is widely regarded as one of the more progressive environmental initiatives in the United States -- several countries are working on developing similar databases -- EPA officials caution that it provides only one piece of the overall pollution picture. The inventory does not cover chemicals that harm the environment but are not directly toxic to human health, such as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. And, while the data quantify the volume of pollutants a facility produces, the inventory does not assess the effect on public health.

"We are not trying to quantify any sort of risk profile," said David Deegan, a spokesman for EPA's Boston office. "It's simply a reporting tool, just in terms of the gross level of pollutants, that shows how much of which category of toxic material is being produced."

Charles Rothenberger, a legal fellow at the Connecticut Fund for the Environment in New Haven, said it is "good news" that Fairfield County facilities are reporting less pollution. But he noted that the EPA data doesn't cover moving sources such as airplanes and automobiles.

"If you isolate just the motor vehicle emissions, it's a pretty striking pattern," he said. "Fairfield County has the absolute worst air quality in the state from the perspective of tailpipe emissions."

-- To view toxic emissions data from your neighborhood, visit

Manual lawn mowers are making a comeback
By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer
Mon May 28, 6:09 AM ET
CHICAGO - Powerful, loud mowers have been showing lawns who's boss for decades. But now contraptions that couldn't cut butter without a good shove are quietly — really quietly — making a comeback.

Manual lawn mowers, long the 98-pound weaklings of the tool shed, are pushing their way, or, more accurately, being pushed around more yards all over the country.

"It's phenomenal," said Teri McClain, inside sales administrator at the 112-year-old American Lawn Mower Co. in Shelbyville, Ind., which she said is the only manufacturer of reel mowers in the United States. "Sales continue to rise every year."

Phenomenal might be a little strong. Exact statistics aren't available, but McClain estimates 350,000 manual mowers are sold in the United States each year — most made by her company. That is just a fraction of the 6 million gas-powered walk-behind mowers that hit the market last year.

Still, that number is about 100,000 more than were sold just five years ago and seven times as many as the estimated 50,000 a year sold in the 1980s, McClain said.

American Lawn Mower was one of about 60 domestic manufacturers of manual mowers at the end of World War II, when power mowers began taking over the industry, McClain said. Now, it is the only one making the mowers in the U.S., although some U.S.-based companies make the mowers in other countries.

According to buyers and sellers, the resurgence of these quaint reminders of yesteryear is due most notably to growing environmental concerns and an increasing number of women who do the mowing.

Headlines about global warming, pollution and vanishing natural resources have people — and not just those wearing Birkenstocks — making changes.

"I'm not a tree hugger but I think we all think about being more environmentally friendly and leave less of a footprint on the world," said Ben Kogan, a Chicago architect who started using his new mower this spring.

"It's an introduction into green gardening and a more green lifestyle," said Jim Grisius, 45, of Homewood, Ill.

And the mowers provide one way to respond to pollution from gas-powered mowers, not to mention the warnings from at least one former vice president.

"I definitely see a bigger selection of people all the time, especially since the        Al Gore movie ('An Inconvenient Truth')," said Lars Hundley, the owner of Clean Air Gardening, a Dallas-based gardening equipment retailer.

The mower also is appealing because it is inexpensive — around $200 — and so simple.

It looks different than the one invented in England in the 1830s to take over a job that once belonged to scythe-wielding people or hungry sheep. And with the use of lighter metals and plastic, it's a lot lighter than the heavy iron and wood mowers some baby boomers remember pushing around for a measly 50 cents an hour.

But it works pretty much the same way it always did: Just push it and it cuts.

"I don't have to worry about gas, repairs and getting it (the mower) started," said Eric Skalinder, a 35-year-old Chicago teacher.

Perhaps just as significant, more people are finding they don't need a power mower because they have less lawn to mow.

McClain said houses in many new developments are being built on lots of a third of an acre or less. And with yard sizes reduced even further by increasingly popular amenities like rock gardens, sitting areas and dog runs, "the mowing area is really very small," she said.

Kogan and Skalinder said that, considering their yards are the size of apartment bedrooms, power mowers didn't seem necessary.

"I felt a gas-powered (mower) was a little over the top for my needs," said Skalinder, adding he didn't want to use the kind of screaming power mower that keeps him awake when he's trying to nap.

Those are welcome words to those in the manual lawn mower business, who well know the hold that big, roaring machines have on the public. "For a lot of people power is the thing," said McClain.

Even for all his talk about a "green lifestyle," Grisius wondered if he really wanted to buy a powerless lawn mower.

"There was a little bit of ... do I want to be the only guy on the block with a reel mower?" he said.

Luckily for the manual mower business, there is a whole segment of the population that isn't enamored with power tools or worried about looking wimpy: Women.

"We noticed very quickly that two out of three people buying manual mowers were female," said Terry Jarvis, president of Sunlawn Inc., a Fort Collins, Colo.-based company that's been selling the mowers for 10 years and making its own for two.

"Women like the simplicity of the machines, the fact that they work." he said. "I constantly hear women commenting, 'I love the useful exercise.'"

Melissa Vesper, 32, of Arlington, Texas, appreciates how she can spend time with her two small children while she's mowing — something she couldn't do with a noisy gas mower that turned pebbles and twigs into projectiles.

"I can hear them and not worry about things getting flung at them," she said.

Nobody suggests that manual mowers — still rare enough that Kogan's neighbors confessed they didn't realize they still existed — are going to push power mowers aside.

Reel mowers, which Hundley said many people buy over the Internet, increasingly are showing up in large hardware chains and small mom-and-pop places alike. But Hundley said stores aren't likely to let push mowers that cost about $200 or less to take valuable display place from power mowers that can cost hundreds of dollars more.

"They'd rather sell an $800 Toro they make a couple hundred bucks on than (make) a few bucks on a push mower," he said.

Still, some owners say they plan on sticking with manual mowers — and maybe get others to follow.

"I hope my neighbors see me," said Skalinder. "I hope people see it and I can offer them a loaner (and) get more people to use them."

Hot air experts blow away another alternative to oil?

Push for Tougher Rules on Wind Industry

By MARY CLARE JALONICK, Associated Press Writer 
10:45 AM EDT, June 3, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Birds and bats have a powerful advocate in the new Congress, and he is making the wind energy industry nervous.

Rep. Nick Rahall, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, is pushing legislation that would more strictly regulate wind energy to protect birds, bats and other wildlife killed when they fly into the giant turbines.

Wind energy advocates say the bill could significantly cripple the burgeoning industry and they brand the measure as "anti-wind."

A release from the American Wind Energy Association last month said Rahall's plan could "essentially outlaw" the generation of electricity from new wind power plants in the United States.

Political debate over wind projects has intensified as the industry has seen major growth in recent years. According to the association, wind power is growing 25 percent to 30 percent annually.

Congress has encouraged this renewable energy as oil prices have skyrocketed, creating incentives for the industry and promoting its benefits. But some lawmakers are concerned about the effects on wildlife.

Rahall's proposal, included in a larger energy bill, would direct the Fish and Wildlife Service to publish standards for siting, construction and monitoring of wind projects so that they do not harm wildlife. Violators could go to prison.

After opposition from some members of his committee, Rahall has said he will revisit the legislation. The wind provisions are "not locked in stone," he said.

Still, Rahall, D-W.Va., believes more regulation would be a good idea.

"I suspect that wind projects are on a regular basis in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Endangered Species Act, yet no enforcement action is being taken," he said at a recent hearing on the issue.

Frank Maisano, a spokesman for wind developers in the Mid-Atlantic region, says the industry has frequent discussions with government regulators and environmental groups.

Rahall "is throwing out the entire haystack because there's a needle in there somewhere," he said. "There are plenty of checks on the system that are making us develop in a smart way."

Some in coal-rich West Virginia disagree.

John Stroud, the co-chairman of Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, is fighting a wind power project in Rahall's district, saying it will spoil scenic views and endanger bats.

"Something like this is greatly necessary because these concerns are generally ignored," Stroud says. "Most states don't have much regulation."

John Kostyack, senior counsel for the National Wildlife Federation, says his group is working with Rahall to fine-tune the legislation.

"We think that any energy company, even in an industry we strongly support, needs to grow responsibly," he said,

Last month, a National Research Council panel said the risk to birds and bats is not yet completely understood. That report also noted that wind farms could generate up to 7 percent of U.S. electricity in 15 years.

It is unclear if Rahall's position could pass muster in the Senate.

A spokesman for Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who is chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the senator is supportive of the industry and will remain so.

GOP Sen. John Thune, who has introduced legislation that would give the industry more incentives, was more blunt.

"This proposal is badly misguided and is a step in the wrong direction," said Thune of South Dakota, one of the windier states. "Congress should not be blocking the development of one of the nation's cleanest energy resources ... I will fight any efforts to stymie its development because of unfounded concerns for bats and birds." 

Heat gripping half of US expected to last for days
By BRETT ZONGKER, Associated Press
9 June 2011

WASHINGTON – It could take days for areas broiling under temperatures in the 90s to get relief, forecasters said, as a record-breaking heat wave canceled class and even buckled highway pavement in at least one area.  Sweltering temperatures across half the country have people doing what they can to stay cool, and they'll need to keep doing it for the rest of the week in some places.

The 6-to-10-day outlook from the federal Climate Prediction Center calls for continued above-average readings centered on the mid-South, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and extending as far as the Great Lakes and New York and New Jersey.

"I'm staying in my house. I'm going to watch TV and have a cold beer," said 84-year-old Harvey Milliman of Manchester, N.J. "You got a better idea than that, I'd love to hear it."

Public schools in Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey and Maryland cut their days short Wednesday because of the heat. Cooling centers opened in Chicago, Memphis, Tenn., and Newark, N.J., as a refuge for those without air conditioning.

Authorities say hot weather was so intense in southwestern Michigan that it buckled pavement on an interstate, forcing the roadway to close for a few hours Wednesday, according to the Battle Creek Enquirer.  If scientists are right, we better get used to sweltering temperatures. A new study from Stanford University predicts that global climate change will lead permanently to unusually hot summers by the middle of the century.  Youngsters sweltered in Hartford, Conn., where school would have ended for the summer by now if not for the heavy snows last winter that led to makeup days.

"I'm not even going to go outside this summer if it's going to be like this, unless my mom makes me," said seventh-grader Kemeshon Scott, putting the final touches on a social studies paper in a school with no air conditioning.

Temperatures in the 90s were recorded across much of the South, the East and the Midwest. Baltimore and Washington hit 99 degrees, breaking high-temperature records for the date that were set in 1999, according to the National Weather Service. The normal high for the date is about 82.  Philadelphia hit 97 degrees, breaking a 2008 record of 95, and Atlantic City, N.J., tied a record of 98 set in 1999. Chicago reached 94 by midafternoon.

Forecasters said it felt even hotter because of the high humidity. The ridge of high pressure that brought the broiling weather is expected to remain parked over the region through Thursday.

In Oklahoma, where temperatures have reached 104 four times so far this month, the Salvation Army said more people are seeking help with high utility bills earlier in the season, and paramedics responded to more heat-related illnesses.

Authorities blamed the heat for deaths of five elderly people in Tennessee, Maryland and Wisconsin in recent days.

That is likely to continue in the coming month, with the hot weather extending west into New Mexico and Arizona. The three-month outlook shows excessive heat focused on Arizona and extending east along the Gulf Coast. Cooler-than-normal readings are forecast from Tennessee into the Great Lakes states.

At Stanford, Noah S. Diffenbaugh and Martin Scherer analyzed global climate computer models and concluded that by midcentury, large areas of the world could face unprecedented heat. They said the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest ones of the 1900s.

Global warming in recent years has been blamed on increasing concentrations of gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The permanent shift to extreme heat would occur first in the tropics and reach North America, South America and Eurasia by 2060, the scientist report in a paper that will be published in the journal Climatic Change Letters.

It's hard to stay cool at a ballpark but Reds and Cubs fans were trying at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, which had issued a heat emergency.

Kathryn Burke, of Pikeville, Ky., wore a straw hat, brought two bottles of frozen water, and a portable mister.

"And I brought the knowledge to leave when I've had enough of the heat," she said.

One Cubs fan wasn't so concerned.

"Sunblock, water, and shades, then enjoy the game," said Brad Daniels of his heat defenses. "Hey, it's baseball. We're here to see the boys of summer."

Officials at Fort Jackson in South Carolina, the Army's largest training installation, let recruits adjust their uniforms to get cooler and spend time in the shade.

One soldier who had minor heat ailments earlier in the week had to wear a string of beads to display how many quarts of water he was drinking each day. Said Pvt. Ryan Kline, 24, of Windsor, Colo.: "I had lots of pain, fatigue, but I'm fine today as long as I stay hydrated."

Among those sweltering in the Newark, N.J., heat was Alejandra Perez, who was barbecuing chicken, ribs and shish-kebabs over an outdoor grill at Manny's BBQ Restaurant & Deli in the city's downtown. Newark reached 99 degrees, breaking a record of 97 set in 1999.

"I'm from El Salvador, and it's hot there, but the heat is much worse here," she said in Spanish.