Saturday, November 29, 2008

Unprecedented cold weather endangers sea turtles; many being rescued

Recent cold weather caught sea turtles off-guard before they could reach warmer Gulf Stream waters, and that has led to nearly 25 rescues along the North Carolina coast in the past week. Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center on Topsail Island has rescued numerous cold-stunned sea turtles since Thursday, said Jean Beasley, the hospital's executive director. "We're overwhelmed, this has never happened before -- at least not since the turtle hospital has been in existence," Beasley said. "We had 11 turtles come in last Thursday, 12 on Saturday and six (Sunday). We're frantically trying to make more space."

"Cold weather started it all -- with the precipitous drop in temperature, these guys can't regulate their body temperature," volunteer Karen Sota said, adding that most have been green turtles around 2 years old. There are also a few loggerheads.

Beasley expects that there could be more turtles in trouble. People can help by looking for turtles in the shallow waters -- particularly in marsh grasses, where they aren't easily spotted. Beasley said that turtles should be brought to a sheltered place and that they need to slowly warm up. "Those caught in shallow water are going to be in real trouble because they have no ability to produce any body heat," she said. "We've had some who came in with body temperatures in the 30s ... Normally they need to have body temperatures over 70."

Sota recommends taking any found turtles home and putting them on a towel in a utility room. "Do not put it in warm water," she said. "We're warming them up slowly, giving a course of antibiotics and trying to get them to eat."


Australia: Global cooling fails to cool protagonists of global warming

Europe is shivering through an extreme cold snap. One of the coldest winters in the US in more than 100 years is toppling meteorological records by the dozen, and the Arctic ice is expanding. Even Australia has been experiencing unseasonable snow. But the stories about global warming have not stopped, not for a second.

In May last year, The Sydney Morning Herald breathlessly reported that climate change had reduced the Southern Ocean's ability to soak up carbon dioxide, claiming that as a result global warming would accelerate even faster than previously thought. The story was picked up and repeated in a number of different journals around the region. But this week the CSIRO suggested the exact opposite. "The new study suggests that Southern Ocean currents, and therefore the Southern Ocean's ability to soak up carbon dioxide, have not changed in recent decades," it said. This time the story got no coverage in the SMH, and was run on the ABC's website as evidence the Southern Ocean was adapting to climate change.

CSIRO oceanographer Stuart Rintoul, a co-author of the study, said it did not disprove global warming and he did not believe its lack of an alarmist tone was responsible for the poor coverage. But the story is being pointed out as an example of media bias on global warming. Critics argue that the ABC and the Fairfax media are the worst offenders.

ABC board member Keith Windschuttle said yesterday the national broadcaster was in breach of its charter to provide a diversity of views. "The ABC and the Fairfax press rarely provide an opportunity for global warming sceptics to put their view," Mr Windschuttle said. "The science is not settled. "We are seeing an increasing number of people with impeccable scientific backgrounds questioning part or whole of the story. I don't believe the ABC has been reflecting the genuine diversity of the debate. Under its own act, the ABC is required to produce a diversity of views."

Bob Carter of James Cook University, one of the world's best-known climate change sceptics, said there was no doubt Windschuttle was correct. "With very few exceptions, press reporters commenting on global warming are either ignorant of the science matters involved, or wilfully determined to propagate warming hysteria because that fits their personal world view, or are under editorial direction to focus the story around the alarmist headline grab -- and often all three," Professor Carter said.

National Climate Centre former head William Kininmonth said coverage of global warming had been hysterical and was getting worse, with a large public relations effort inundating the media with information from the alarmist side.



The French EU Presidency is "putting everything on the table" in a "desperate" bid to agree on the climate and energy package before the end of the year, sources close to the negotiations told EurActiv. As part of its push to reach an agreement, France is putting forward a compromise that includes free emission rights for coal plants, financial compensation for energy-intensive industries and extensive use of third country emissions reductions to meet CO2 'effort sharing' targets.

Countries that use coal for more than 30% of their power generation portfolio could receive free CO2 emissions permits for several years once the revised EU ETS is launched in 2013. This would cut in half the 60% threshold originally proposed by Poland, which remains highly dependent on coal for power generation. If adopted, coal plants in most EU member states would benefit from the scheme. Only Ireland, the UK and France would be excluded from the scheme due to their relatively low use of coal for power generation.

France, which holds the presidency of the European Council until the end of the year, is currently in 'trialogue' talks with representatives of the Commission and Parliament. The last trialogue on the EU ETS was held in Brussels on 25 November. Details of the behind-closed-doors talks, which were established in an effort to agree a deal on the package in advance of the 11-12 European summit, have been slow to emerge. Scattered reports from sources close to the negotiations, however, indicate that EU member states may dismantle some of the basic architecture of the Commission's original proposal in order to reach a deal before the end of 2008.

A financial compensation mechanism for energy-intensive industries that face higher electricity costs due to the EU ETS, for example, is on the table. The mechanism is allegedly being proposed by the French EU Presidency in response to pressure from the German delegation. Berlin has reportedly reacted with a large degree of 'disappointment' to Paris's apparent acquiescence to all manner of demands being put forward by the Polish delegation. The implication is that France's willingness to accept Polish requests has in turn led Germany to push for its own set of exemptions from a future EU CO2 reduction regime.

There is also some speculation that Paris has modelled the mechanism on the subsidy scheme that underpins the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), of which France is a main beneficiary.



Report from Denmark: Poland gives the thumbs down to plans for a European climate agreement this year, as Denmark prepares for the Climate Summit in 2009

The prime minister's hopes for a global climate agreement in Copenhagen next year appear to have been dashed by Poland. Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen has repeatedly said that a global agreement on CO2 reductions at next year's Climate Summit in Copenhagen is contingent on the European Union being able to reach its own compromise at this year's December EU summit.

But Poland has made it clear that under current circumstances it will not agree to EU targets and is close to giving up negotiations completely. "I see no flexibility at all from the rich countries," says Poland's Minister for Europe and Climate Delegation leader Mikolaj Dowgielewicz in an interview with Politiken and DR.

At its December summit, the 27 European Union countries are looking to agree on the practical aspects of burden-sharing in order to reach a 20 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020. That burden-sharing agreement is seen as vital in getting the United States, India and China, among others, to agree on a global climate agreement in Copenhagen in December 2009. At the same time, it is hoped that the EU summit will confirm the Union's ambitious target that 20 percent of Europe's energy should come from sustainable energy sources by 2020.

But Dowgielewicz says that in reality, the goals are unattainable. "Poland is not France which has nuclear power. Poland is not Denmark, which is almost self-sufficient in its energy requirement," says Dowgielewicz. "We are 38 million people in the middle of Europe and we are behind the rest. We have to catch up with developments in your countries - and that is in everyone's interest. And if you say to us - a country that gets 95 percent of its energy from coal - that we have to change everything, it's just a dream. A nice dream, but a dream nonetheless," he adds.

Dowgielewicz arrives in Brussels today with an ultimatum for the Commission, the French Presidency and other EU countries. His government is adamant that the current negotiations are going nowhere, and that much more consideration must be given to less wealthy EU countries. The Polish government feels that the current status of the negotiations is impossible and that the French Presidency is only looking out for itself, Italy and Germany - all of whom are hiding behind Poland in a wish to postpone or scrap the European climate agreement.

Dowgielewicz says he finds it difficult to see a compromise. "There are no good signs for the negotiations of the coming weeks. And quite honestly I am sorry about that. But everyone is going to have to compromise if we are to reach agreement in December. At the moment, I cannot imagine how that is going to be possible," he concludes.



Barack Obama, who promised last week to write a "new chapter in America's leadership" on the environment, could find his hands tied by the economic crisis, a leading figure in global climate change negotiations said yesterday.

John Kerry, who will lead the US Senate's delegation to the UN's climate meeting in Poznan, Poland, next month, said his country was now in a position to play a leading role on global climate change negotiations. But he also said Obama's administration would be constrained by the economic crisis in offering incentives to countries such as India and China to commit themselves to lower greenhouse gas emissions. "We have to figure out what is achievable ... within one year, given our economic realities," Kerry said. "The bottom line is we are not going to be in the position we were two years ago in the short term to do as much technology transfer or economic assistance in terms of transitional issues that might have led other countries to participate."

The caution came amid rising expectations on the eve of the two-week UN meeting, which begins on Monday, about the prospects of negotiating a successor to the Kyoto protocol late next year. Kerry said there would be little negotiation on a treaty at the meeting but it would focus on setting out a timetable leading up to next year's international climate change summit at the Copenhagen meeting. "This is not a negotiation session," he said. "This is a negotiation to set up a glide path going into Copenhagen."

In a video appearance last week before a climate change conference hosted by California's governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Obama promised the US would lead the way on the environment. Kerry reaffirmed that pledge, even with the caveats. "It's a moment we've been waiting for, many of us, for some period of time - for eight years, to be blunt," he said. "And we intend to pick up the baton and really run with it here." Kerry said Obama had asked him to report back on the meeting in Poland.

The Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, Kerry is scheduled to take over as the chairman of the Senate's foreign relations committee in January. That puts him in pole position for lining up support in Congress behind a successor to Kyoto. "It's going to be one of the top priorities of the committee," Kerry said. "I know this playing field and I know this issue."

Kerry said Obama was making progress in filling the environmental portfolios in his administration, and in coordinating with working committees in Congress. Obama will not be in Poznan. His position since the election has been that America has only one sitting president at a time. But the focus has already shifted towards the potential actors in the next administration.

On the American side, Kerry is to be joined at Poznan by the Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, an early supporter of Obama, who has been active on the environment. George Bush will be sending his regular negotiators to Poland for the final climate change conference of his administration. The US delegation will be led by the undersecretary of state, Paula Dobriansky. Jim Connaughton, the White House adviser on the environment, will also attend. The US delegation was heckled at last December's climate conference in Bali.



Many elderly and poor people are struggling to afford heating, now that utilty bills are so high. And cold is deadly

Last winter 25,300 more people died in the winter months than in the summer, an increase of seven per cent on the previous year, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show. Most of these are due to circulatory and respiratory diseases and the majority occur among the elderly in a situation which has been condemned by campaigners. There are fears the death toll will be higher this year as forecasters predict lower temperatures than last year, utility bills have risen and the credit crunch means many households are struggling to make ends meet.

The UK has traditionally had a worse record on so-called excess winter deaths even when compared with countries that have colder climates like Finland and Norway, according to the World Health Organisation, but the last comparison was carried out when there were unusually high deaths in the UK due to flu epidemics.

Help the Aged said the number of deaths were still at unacceptable levels. Mervyn Kohler, special adviser, said: "This year's winter deaths figures are a continuing disgrace to a Government who are there to protect the most vulnerable in our society. "Older people are struggling on a daily basis, with the rising cost of living leading to real hardship.

More here


Russian oil companies could soon begin searching for oil in deep Gulf of Mexico waters off Cuba, a top diplomat said just days before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visits the island. Russian oil companies have "concrete projects" for drilling in Cuba's part of the gulf, said Mijail Kamynin, Russia's ambassador to Cuba, to the state-run business magazine Opciones.

Kamynin also said Russian companies would like to help build storage tanks for crude oil and to modernize Cuban pipelines, as well as play a role in Venezuelan efforts to refurbish a Soviet-era refinery in the port city of Cienfuegos, according the article published this weekend.

Medvedev comes to former Cold War ally Cuba on Thursday, part of a tour of Latin America to strengthen his country's economic and political ties in the region. Kamynin said trade between Russia and the island would top 400 USD million this year.

Washington's nearly 50-year-old trade embargo prohibits US companies from investing on the island. But Cuba's state-run oil concern has signed joint operating agreements with companies from several countries to explore waters that Cuban scientists claim could contain reserves of up to 20 billion barrels of oil.

More here


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