Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Nutty old Lovelock is at it again

Climate war could kill nearly all of us, leaving survivors in the Stone Age, apparently

We need a climate change 'Churchill' to lead us away from planet-wide devastation, writes James Lovelock in the latest edition of Conservation magazine. 'We have enjoyed 12,000 years of climate peace since the last shift from a glacial age to an interglacial one,' says Lovelock.

In a small way, the plight of the British in 1940 resembles the state of the civilized world now. At that time we had had nearly a decade of the well-intentioned but quite wrong belief that peace was all that mattered.

The followers of the peace lobbies of the 1930s resembled the environmentalist movements now; their intentions were more than good but wholly inappropriate for the war that was about to start. It is time to wake up and realize that Gaia, the Earth system, is no cozy mother that nurtures humans and can be propitiated by gestures such as carbon trading or sustainable20development.

Gaia, even though we are a part of her, will always dictate the terms of peace. I am stirred by the thought that Gaia has existed for more than a quarter the age of the universe and that it has taken this long for a species to evolve that can think, communicate, and store its thoughts and experiences.

If we can keep civilization alive through this century perhaps there is a chance that our descendants will one day serve Gaia and assist her in the fine-tuned self-regulation of the climate and composition of our planet.

We have enjoyed 12,000 years of climate peace since the last shift from a glacial age to an interglacial one. Before long, we may face planet-wide devastation worse even than unrestricted nuclear war between superpowers. The climate war could kill nearly all of us and leave the few survivors living a Stone Age existence. But in several places in the world, including the U.K., we have a chance of surviving and even of living well.

For that to be possible, we have to make our lifeboats seaworthy now. Back in May 1940, we in the UK awoke to find facing us across the Channel a wholly hostile continental force about to invade. We were alone without an effective ally but fortunate to have a new leader, Winston Churchill, whose moving words stirred the whole nation from its lethargy: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."

We all need modern Churchills to lead us from the clinging, flabby, consensual thinking of the late twentieth century and to bind our nations with a single-minded effort to wage a difficult war.


Australia: Warmism now a mass-market fad

PRODUCTS with labels spelling out how much they pollute are set to appear on supermarket shelves next year, giving shoppers yet another way to turn consumerism into social activism. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the entire production of everyday products will be clearly labelled on them, alongside a pledge by those participating companies to reduce them every two years.

A similar scheme has been operating in Britain for two years with the support of 20 companies, including the retailers Tesco and Boots, and products such as chips, soft drinks, laundry powder and even bank accounts carry the black footprint logo. The scheme's owner, Britain's Carbon Trust, has licensed Planet Ark to roll out the scheme here. Planet Ark's project manager, Diane Mann, said: "We are always talking about empowering the consumer to make a change and this is one way that they can do it … by endorsing a company that has committed to change."

Australian consumers are already voting with their wallet. Sales of products carrying the green frog of the Rainforest Alliance have risen 23 per cent in the past year, and sales of Fairtrade products are set to rise by 80 per cent this year.

In Britain, the Carbon Trust looked at every step of the supply chain of a bag of chips - from growing the potatoes to their transport, manufacture and packaging. It found the majority of emissions came from the farming and transport of potatoes to the factory, leading the company - Walkers, which is part of the PepsiCo empire - to pressure farmers to uses potato varieties that retain less water and are lighter to transport. Walkers reduced its overall emissions by 7 per cent - which amounted to 6g less CO2 a bag - allowing it to keep the footprint logo for another two years.

Ms Mann said she was holding talks with a number of international and local companies to sign up for early next year.

Ben Peacock, the founder of Republic for Everyone, an ad agency that specialises in ethical causes, said: "All the research I'm seeing is showing that green issues are still top of the mind for some consumers even though there's a recession."



The UK's Met Office has had its funding for climate research slashed by a quarter, following withdrawal of financial support by the government's Ministry of Defence (MoD). The loss of £4.3 million (US$7.0 million) in funding from the MoD will affect the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change in Exeter, the world-class climate modelling institute whose researchers made key contributions to the last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007.

"This news comes as a shock," says climate scientist Martin Parry, formerly at the Met Office and now at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. "The UK's core modelling work on climate change has been funded from this source, up to now." "Global and regional security will be threatened by climate change, and the MoD is hopelessly wrong to think it is outside its responsibility," adds Parry, who co-chaired the IPCC's working group on climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

In a statement, an MoD spokesperson said that the cuts, which will come into effect immediately, were made with a view to "prioritizing success in current operations, such as Afghanistan".

This will be the first time that Met Office climate research has gone without MoD cash, according to a Met Office spokesman. The office became an executive agency of the ministry in 1990 and a commercialized trading fund in 1996. By 2008, one-sixth of its budget of £176.5 million came from commercial services. But government, and the MoD in particular, has continued to be its main customer and funder.

In 2007, the MoD signed a three-year deal worth £12 million with the Met Office, to part-fund its Integrated Climate Programme (ICP), which makes up the bulk of its climate research. Although the MoD has withdrawn its remaining funding, a Met Office spokesman insisted that the programme is not threatened. The Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is committed to providing £4 million per year in funding up until 2011 to ICP, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will provide approximately £10 million in annual funding over the same period.

The Met Office is now in negotiations with these departments, and with the Department for International Development (DfID), in an effort to recoup some of the lost funding. "If they don't recoup it, they are going to be in serious trouble," said Gavin Schmidt, a climate modeller at NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York. "Losing 25% of your funding is a huge deal. Five percent is generally containable, but 25% is not an amount you can hope to absorb easily."...



India fended off pressure at the recently concluded Major Economies Forum to agree to greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments in a declaration being prepared for the G8+5 summit that is to be held in Italy in July. The Major Economies Forum, supported by the US, is a conglomeration of 20 countries, including key emerging economies and industrialised nations. Critics believe it was set up to force a decision at the global climate negotiations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Officials told TOI that at the forum, the US and other developed countries insisted on India and other developing countries to agree to a declaration for the G8 summit that would require GHG reducing commitments from them in the long run. "At the same time, the rich nations stayed ambivalent on what targets they would take in the short to mid-term," an official said.

The rich nations have demanded that growing economies like India and China take on emission cuts in the long run while running shy of either taking deeper short-term targets or discussing technology and funds transfer for adaptation to poorer nations.

The G8+5 declaration, if one is hammered out in time, could become an overarching political statement of the key nations that would force negotiations at the UN meetings in a particular direction. The UN negotiations are seen by developing countries to be far more democratic and where India and China hold the trump card along with the G77 block. The G8 club is perceived by observers to be a forum where pressure on emerging economies can be piled on heavy as it is difficult for them to be seen as "nay-sayers".

There was also limited talk on other issues on the climate table favourable to India - technology and finance.



The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports that Great Lakes water levels are up from this time a year ago. Lakes Michigan and Huron are up 12 inches, Lake Superior 2 inches and Lake Erie 5 inches while Lake Ontario is unchanged. Even Lake St. Clair is up 9 inches. Erie and Ontario (and St. Clair) are between 2 and 6 inches above long-term monthly averages for June. Superior, Michigan and Huron are only 6 to 7 inches below long-term averages for June. While this change in the water levels is pronounced, it is not unusual. The Great Lakes have a history of considerable fluctuation in water levels.

During the last 10 years, water levels in the Great Lakes have been below long-term averages. For 30 years prior to that the levels were above average. In fact, historical water level data indicates there is no normal water level for the Great Lakes. A normal water level and an average water level are not the same thing.

The press has been quick to report on lower-than-average Great Lakes levels over the last decade. Many of the articles quote environmental and other groups predicting the dire consequences of global warming's influence. "Warming saps Great Lakes: Water levels could take big drop as Earth gets hotter" is the headline of an article that appeared April 7, 2007, in The Detroit News. In the article, Scudder Mackey of Canada's University of Windsor predicts that in a worst case scenario, Lake St. Clair's shoreline could recede by as much as 3.5 miles. In the same article George Kling, a University of Michigan ecologist, suggests that within 30 years summers in Michigan are likely to feel more like those in Kentucky today and that by the end of the century, summer weather will resemble Arkansas and northern Mississippi.

Climate change alarmists predicting doomsday scenarios for the Great Lakes are probably not too pleased with the draft report "Impacts on Upper Great Lakes Water Levels: St. Clair River" released May 1, 2009, by the International Joint Commission. The report found that the difference in water levels between Lake Michigan-Huron and Lake Erie of 9 inches between 1962 and 2006 was caused by three factors:

* A change in the conveyance of the St. Clair River, mostly likely caused by a large ice jam that occurred in the mid-1980s;

* Glacial isostatic adjustment (the rebounding of the earth's crust after the melting of the glaciers about 10,000 years ago);

* Changes in climate patterns.

If lower-than-average water levels in the Great Lakes is caused by global warming, then increasing water levels must be caused by global cooling, right? Of course the global cooling connection to Great Lakes water levels is just as spurious as the global warming claims. Maybe it is time to take a pause and understand that as much as we might like to, man does not control nature. At the very least we should not undertake expensive and job-killing policy initiatives such as cap-and-trade of CO2 because of predictions regarding the Great Lakes, which are proving to be wrong.


Composting is bad for your health

Giant compost heaps used to recycle garden waste and leftover food could be harming the health of those living nearby, experts have warned. Researchers fear the industrial-scale sites increase rates of asthma, respiratory infections and skin complaints among locals unless they are correctly regulated.

There are already nearly a hundred commercial composting facilities in the UK, handling more than 1.7million tons of waste per year. The number is expected to double as councils scramble to meet Government targets for recycling organic household waste.

But critics warn that the sites lead to increased numbers of rats and flies which help to spread disease. Compost also contains bacteria, spores and fungi that can become airborne in emissions known as bioaerosols, which are potentially harmful to humans. A Government-backed study by the Environment Agency and Cranfield University has already found that among 44 sites examined, only eight had produced adequate risk assessments on protecting the surrounding area from bioaerosols.

Studies on workers at composting sites have also shown that there is a risk of respiratory infections from organisms that thrive in decaying organic matter and diseases such as farmer's lung, a common cause of breathing difficulties among farm workers. Peter Sykes, head of the centre for public protection at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff, said: 'There is certainly an occupational risk to people working in compost sites, but the risk to residents living nearby is less well known. 'It depends on how the waste is being turned, the weather and the landscape itself.'

A survey of 132 residents living near a composting facility in Coven, Wolverhampton, carried out for Ken Purchase, MP for Wolverhampton North East, found that 66 felt the health of someone in their family had been harmed by the facility. Mr Purchase said: 'What is clear is that the nuisance is persistent and that the smell alone prevents residents enjoying the pleasure of their gardens and, in some cases, means doors and windows have to remain shut even on good summer days.'

It usually takes three months for organic waste to turn into usable compost, during which time temperatures inside the compost heaps can hit nearly 150F (65C).

In most sites waste is piled up in the open and regularly turned over by heavy machinery, which aids composition but spreads dust.

The Environment Agency is now producing new guidance for composting sites on how to reduce their emissions.

The UK produces more than 100million tons of food and other organic waste each year but currently just 2.8million tons are sent for composting.

Trelawney Dampney, managing director of Dorset-based Eco Sustainable Solutions and a director at the Association for Organics Recycling, said the industry was aware of the concerns and followed Environment Agency guidance to try to avoid any risk to the public. He said: 'The Environment Agency advises that all sites should be more than 250 yards from residential dwellings because within 250 yards the exposure to bioaerosols could be reasonably high, especially if they are down wind.'



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