Coal-fired power plant in Oxnard Dunes, Oxnard, California, on 9 May 2009. Rennett Stowe / flickr

By Valerie Volcovici
24 January 2012

NEW YORK – U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions will be 7 percent lower than their 2005 level of nearly 6 billion metric tons in 2020 as coal's share of electricity production continues a steady descent over the next two decades, according to new government data.

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released an early version of its annual energy outlook on Monday, which predicted a slowdown in growth of energy use over the next two decades amid economic recovery and improved energy efficiency.

The report highlights the fact that carbon-intensive coal generation will see a major decline in the power sector in the coming decades, which will ensure energy-related CO2 emissions will not exceed 2005 levels at any point before 2035.

The report also showed that emissions per capita would fall an average of 1 percent per year from 2005 to 2035 as the new federal standards, state renewable energy mandates and higher energy prices would temper the growth of demand for transportation fuels.

"Over the next 25 years, the projected coal share of overall electricity generation falls to 39 percent, well below the 49-percent share seen as recently as 2007, because of slow growth in electricity demand, continued competition from natural gas and renewable plants, and the need to comply with new environmental regulations," it said.

The retirement of old, inefficient coal-fired power plants will outpace new construction, and the report added that gas-fired plants - which are cheaper to build - will generate 13 percent more power in 2012 than they did last year.

Meanwhile, the share of electricity generation from renewable fuels is expected to grow from 10 percent in 2010 to 16 percent by 2035, according to the EIA. […]

U.S. CO2 emissions to stay below 2005 levels as coal use shrinks

Flooded temple in Thailand, 2011.

BANGKOK, 30 January 2012 (Xinhua) – Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said Monday that the government had completed 80 percent of the compensation payments to flood victims in 30 districts in the capital city.

But he said government approval is still pending for payments for some areas where the residents had yet to get compensation.

In total, 30 districts out of 50 in Bangkok were inundated by the worst flood in 50 years last year. Over 620,000 households were affected by the flood which first began from late July in the northern part following heavy monsoons and back-to-back tropical storms.

Across the country, more than 800 people were killed and over 1. 3 million hit by unprecedented flooding. Over all about 2.3 million families nationwide are entitled to compensation of 5,000 baht (160 U.S. dollars) for each household. 

Flood compensations in Bangkok almost done: governor

Bangkok Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra said on Monday that the dredging of canals and sewers in the capital would be done before the rainy season starts in May.

He said he had instructed the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's Drainage and Sewerage Department to speed up the dredging and have it completed before May.

Sukhumbhand was speaking to reporters after a meeting with senior BMA officials.

During the meeting, the Drainage and Sewerage Department reported on its plan for dredging canals and sewers in the capital to cope with possible floodwaters from upstream provinces, Sukhumbhand said.

He said the department initially expected that dredging would be undertaken in June, July or August but that he had instructed the department to speed up the works.

The department was also instructed to coordinate with the Army.

Asked to comment on speculation by a Pheu Thai MP that he would resign before the end of his term in January next year, the governor, a member of the opposition Democrat Party, said if he decided to do so, reporters would be informed first, not a Pheu Thai MP.

The governor added that the payment of compensation to flood victims in 30 Bangkok districts was now 80 per cent complete. He said the government has yet to approve compensation for 12 other districts.

Dredging of canals and sewers to be completed by May : governor

Planes at Bangkok's flooded Don Mueang airport, November 2011. Paula Bronstein / Getty Images

By Cassandra James, Asia Travel Examiner
30 January 2012

Good news and bad news from Airports of Thailand president, Anirut Thanomkulbutra, today. Bangkok's Don Mueang Airport, in the north of the city, will apparently reopen on March 6, 2012, after already being closed for more than three and a half months due to massive flood damage.

According to Mr. Thanomkulbutra, all flood damage repair at Don Mueang will be complete by early March. Good news indeed, as the March reopen date is almost a month earlier than expected.

Don Mueang is Bangkok's second airport however so, as many Bangkok residents will tell you, it being closed hasn't affected flights overly much. Particularly as all airlines simply relocated to Suvarnabhumi, Bangkok's main airport when floods first hit in October, 2011.

Bangkok's Don Mueang Airport to reopen in March with flood damage repaired

Water Levels for Anvil Lake in North Central Wisconsin, 1936-2010. National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy draft, 2012

Between 2000 and 2010, the worst drought ever recorded since Euro-American settlement hit the Colorado River Basin. Water levels in Lake Mead dropped to record lows. The drought not only threatened the supply of water to cities like Las Vegas, it also harmed the ecosystems and riparian areas that support countless fish, plants, and animals and endangered species, like the humpback chub and the southwestern willow flycatcher.

Climate models project that the decade-long drought that gripped the region may become the normal climate instead of the rare exception, perhaps as soon as the end of the 21st century (Barnett and Pierce 2009, Rajagopalan, et al., 2009). The threat is being taken seriously by the Bureau of Reclamation, which has developed a plan that brings all stakeholders together in an attempt to balance human needs for water while providing sufficient flows and habitat for sustainable fish, wildlife, and plant populations.

Similar challenges must be faced around the nation. Long-term records at Anvil Lake, a groundwater-fed lake in northern Wisconsin, highlight the importance of water levels to fish, wildlife, and plant species. Over centuries, the lake’s water level has risen and fallen. However, Anvil Lake’s water level became progressively lower during each succeeding dry period, especially during the most recent dry period (WICCI 2011). In the future, any water loss through evapotranspiration associated with warmer temperatures would be expected to exacerbate any drought effect in similar aquatic systems.

These examples hold an important lesson for adaptation strategies. To help plants, wildlife, and ecosystems adapt to a changing climate, it is not enough to focus just on the natural world. Ensuring that ecosystems have enough water in regions expected to experience more droughts will require working with farmers, municipalities, energy industries, among others, to reduce the overall demand for the increasingly scarce water.

National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy draft

Lightning over Lake Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia. Peter Kennelly / ABC

30 January 2012 (ABC) – Lake Macquarie Council's effort to manage the impact of rising sea levels has again raised the ire of developer Jeff McCloy, this time over his plans to develop the former Pasminco smelter site.

A council flood study found thousands of lakeside properties would be in danger of flooding by 2100 due to rising seas.

Mr McCloy has already threatened a class action against the Council for devaluing waterfront properties.

But he says he is just been given a new set of sea level predictions for the development site at Boolaroo.

"They've adopted a different policy and given us different levels for that site because of the threat of the rising sea level in 90 years from now, which is a ridiculous number," he said

"The 100 blocks we were expecting and working on for all this time, it's going to cut them down by 20 or 30, unless there's an enormous amount of fill placed."

Developer concerned about sea level predictions

Victor Muruga (r) and his three-year-old brother Ian Kimani (l) prepare lunch from their camp at 
Mumoi farm. Peter Kahare / IPS[Desdemona’s been following this story since the beginning: Mau forest evictees. It’s a true climate refugee tragedy and emblematic of the kinds of terrible decisions nations will be forced to make as large swaths of the planet become uninhabitable.]

By Peter Kahare
24 January 2012

RIFT VALLEY, Kenya (IPS) – Six-year-old Victor Muruga points to a hole in the bush that he calls his "bedroom". "I sleep there, under that tree and my mother sleeps under that blanket," says Muruga.

Muruga is in a jovial mood as he prepares lunch for the family. The bubbly boy, his three-year old brother Ian Kimani and their mother had to initially spend five days in the bush after being transported here to Mumoi farm, enduring the scathing sun and biting cold as they waited for the government and Kenya Red Cross Society to provide them with tents.

Muruga's family are among the 4,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) affected by Kenya’s 2007/2008 post-election violence who live here on Mumoi farm in Subukia Township, 200 kilometres north west of Nairobi. Four years after the violence, they are yet to be allocated their one-hectare piece of land that the government promised all IDPs. […]

In the country’s 2011/2012 budget allocation, Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta set aside 60 million dollars for resettling IDPs. However, the process of resettlement has been characterised by corruption, tribalism and hostility to the IDPs.

Early last year, the government launched an investigation into a missing two million dollars that had been set aside for the resettlement IDPs, which had allegedly been misappropriated by officials in various ministries and even representatives of IDPs.

The 2007/2008 post-election violence displaced over 660,000 people, over half of whom were displaced in the Rift Valley Province. While more than 300,000 families have returned to their farms, and their ethnic homelands in Central, Nyanza and Western Provinces, some have sold the homes they were forced to flee from and bought land elsewhere.

There remain over 15,000 families displaced by the post-election violence awaiting their land settlements in Rift Valley Province, the largest province in Kenya. Each family has an average of five children.

"These are the people we recognise, plus the 5,710 families evacuated from the Mau Forest in 2009 who are camping in three major camps along the forest boundary," Mondo says. […]

Another politician, Luka Kiagen, a Member of Parliament for Rongai Constituency, in the Rift Valley Province, has been leading a section of elders to complain over the settlement of IDPs in Rongai.

He claims that 10,000 people from the Kikuyu community had settled in Rongai at the expense of the largely Kalenjin community who had been evicted from the Mau Forest.

"People displaced from Mau Forest who are residing along the border have been forgotten in the resettlement programme," Kigen told IPS.

The government maintains that there was no discrimination in the resettlement exercise.

"Such allegations are unfounded. It is not by choice that members of the Kikuyu community are the largest number of IDPs," Mondo told IPS.

Non-governmental organisations and civil societies have blamed the government for the continued delay in resettling IDPs.

"The IDPs issue has exposed the intolerance and divisions among communities. The government has not been willing to clear this blot on the face of Kenya. It has failed in upholding the constitution that guarantees security and accommodation for all Kenyans by false promises for four years.

"The government claims that there is no land for relocation. But look at the thousands of acres owned by politicians and lying idle in the country. Can’t they be bought by the government at least to settle the IDPs?" Ndung’u Wainaina, director of the International Center for Policy and Conflict, told IPS. […]

Four Years On, IDPs Remain in Camps

By Kiplang'at Kirui
27 January 2012

The Mau Forest Interim Co-ordinating Secretariat requires Sh3 billion to resettle 7,000 families in Maasai Mau block of Mau Forest Complex. Secretariat chairman Noor Hassan Noor said they have made formal request to the treasury for the funds before eviction exercise begins. Noor made the remarks yesterday during the Joint Enforcement Team workshop in Narok town.

He said that they launched a 100-day rapid response initiative in efforts to secure the forests still inhabited by settlers. "We have made requests to treasury for the funds and I have no doubt at all that the government will meet our proposal," said Noor. Noor said the secretariat uses Sh5 million every month to foot the bills of the joint enforcement team which guards the forest.

The team comprises officials from the regular and Administration Police, the Kenya Forest Service, the General Service Unit and the Narok County Council. Noor said the profiling and survey in the Maasai Mau forest, which is a trust land of Narok County Council, ended two years ago with some 15,000 people settled on the 46,278 hectare forest. He said that they have reduced destruction of the forest by 80 per cent from the time the conservation of the biggest water towers in the country started.

He refuted previous claims that the government has shelved the eviction of settlers in the forest saying the secretariat is using all scientific methods to restore the ecosystem without affecting the lives of the settlers. "We are using all methods to conserve the forest, but evicting the settlers is inevitable," said Noor.

He warned government officers who collude with illegal loggers to destroy forests that stern action will be taken against them. Noor also appealed to Kenyans to stop lighting fires in areas where there are forests. "I urge them to stop playing with fire in forest areas out of ignorance and neglect as the country is experiencing dry seasons," he said

About 15,000 settlers are settled on the 146,800 hectare-Maasai Mau. They encroached it through the extension and sub-division of group ranches which began in 1998. The Mau issue has put the Prime Minister Raila Odinga at loggerheads with a section of Rift Valley MPs led by Eldoret North MP William Ruto. The Rift MPs want all the Mau Settlers must be fully compensated or given alternative settlement before the evictions are effected.

MAU Secretariat Needs Three Billion Shilling to Resettle Families

Drought-stricken wheat crops bake in the sun in 2011 near Hermleigh, Texas. More intense heat waves due to global warming could diminish wheat crop yields around the world through premature ageing, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.

By Marlowe Hood
29 January 2012

More intense heat waves due to global warming could diminish wheat crop yields around the world through premature ageing, according to a study published Sunday in Nature Climate Change.

Current projections based on computer models underestimate the extent to which hotter weather in the future will accelerate this process, the researchers warned.

Wheat is harvested in temperate zones on more than 220 million hectares (545 million acres), making it the most widely grown crop on Earth.

In some nations, the grain accounts for up to 50 percent of calorie intake and 20 percent of protein nutrition, according to the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), near Mexico City.

In 2010, drought and wildfires in wheat-exporting Russia pushed world prices of the grain to two-year highs, underscoring the vulnerability of global supplies to weather- and climate-related disruptions.

Greenhouse experiments have shown that unseasonably high temperatures -- especially at the end of the growing season -- can cause senescence, the scientific term for accelerated ageing.

Excess heat beyond the plant's tolerance zone damages photosynthetic cells.

Fluctuations in wheat yields in India have also been attributed by farmers to temperature, most recently a heat wave in 2010 blamed for stunting plant productivity.

To further test these experiments and first-hand observations, a trio of researchers led by David Lobell of Stanford University sifted through nine years of satellite data for the Indo-Ganges Plains in northern India and then used statistical methods to isolate the effects of extreme heat on wheat.

They found that a 2.0 Celsius increase above long-term averages shortened the growing season by a critical nine days, reducing total yield by up to 20 percent.

"These results imply that warming presents an even greater challenge to wheat than implied by previous modeling studies, and that the effectiveness of adaptations will depend on how well they reduce crop sensitivity to very hot days," the researchers concluded. […]

Wheat also faces another possibly climate-related threat: aggressive new strains of wheat rust disease have decimated up to 40 percent of harvests in some regions of north Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Wheat rust is a fungal disease that attacks the stems, grains and especially the leaves of grains including wheat, barley and rye.

Global warming and increased variability of rainfall have weakened the plants even as these emerging rust strains have adapted to extreme temperatures not seen before, scientists say. […]

Climate-driven heat peaks may shrink wheat crops

Captain Paul Watson with a baby harp seal friend.

By Captain Paul Watson
29 January 2012

I have been fighting the Canadian seal hunt since 1974. It’s been a long hard road after nearly four decades. During that time I have taken ships into the ice six times, in 1979, 1981, 1983, 1998, 2005, and 2008. I’ve led three helicopter campaigns in 1976, 1977, and 1995. During this time we chased sealing vessels out of the ice, blockaded sealing ships in harbor, walked for miles over treacherous ice conditions, confronting Canadian fisheries officers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, debated Senators, Members of Parliament, Newfoundland Premiers, Fisheries Ministers and Prime Ministers. We’ve taken celebrities Brigitte Bardot, Richard Dean Anderson and Martin Sheen to the ice floes and we worked to have seal products banned worldwide. We’ve been arrested, beaten by police and by sealers, lost a ship, and we’ve been vilified across Canada as eco-terrorists, extremists and traitors.

We even devised a cruelty free, non-lethal sealing alternative of brushing off molting fur from the white coats because it has the same properties as eider down. The government rejected our alternative. The government wanted the seals to die.

But in the end we won!

The Canadian seal slaughter is commercial-dead and it will have no place in the 21st Century. This anachronistic barbaric enterprise is being tossed into the dustbin of history where it belongs, and finally after a lifetime of struggle to end it, this obscene embarrassment is for all intents and purposes – dead.

It was a half a century ago when I was ten years old when I saw a seal clubbed to death on the shores of my native New Brunswick in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It was my dream then to put an end to it and that dream has all but come true.

Last year in a ridiculous fit of pique, Canadian federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea set the kill quota at 400,000 despite knowing there was no viable market for this cruel and ecologically destructive product. The actual kill was less than 10% of that at 38,000 seal pups.

The sealers may want to kill seals but they are also practical enough to know that it makes little sense to kill them if there is no market for the pelts. Last year the entire industry brought in less than one million dollars and cost the Canadian taxpayers much more than that in subsidies, public relations, and free icebreaking services to the seal killers.

For the last few years the commercial seal slaughter has survived as a glorified welfare system supported by politicians indulging in all sorts of histrionic stunts, to promote it ranging from serving seal meat in the Parliamentary cafeteria to the Governor General sinking her teeth into a raw seal heart with blood dripping down her chin.

Thanks to the fact that seal products are banned in the USA, Europe and Russia, the worldwide market has crashed.

It has been a long, long fight and the credit for this goes to many organizations and individuals who have fought so long and so passionately to achieve this victory for these beautiful creatures.

The late Cleveland Amory and the Fund for Animals, Brian Davies and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Rebecca Aldworth and the Humane Society of the United States, Brigitte Bardot and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, PETA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Harp and to the passionate crews who accompanied me to the ice, first with Greenpeace in 1976 and 1977 and after that with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

It was a struggle that began in the Sixties and now the commercial slaughter has ended and it will only be a few more years until the kills dwindle down to what the sadistic savages in the Magdalen Islands of Quebec and a few outposts of Newfoundland kill for recreation. […]

The Canadian Seal Hunt is Dead!  Long Live the Seals!

Children gather water from a broken pipe in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Karim Kadim / AP

Baghdad, 27 January 2012 (UPI) – Iraq is facing worsening water shortages caused by the failure of successive postwar governments to ensure supplies and extensive dam-building in neighboring states that could trigger sectarian conflict.

"One prediction, which has yet to come true, has been made repeatedly by former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali since 1988: That the Middle East will at some point in the future see war break out over access to water," the Middle East Economic Digest observed.

"Boutros-Ghali thought an interstate war would occur because of disputes over the ownership of the Nile. This has yet to happen.

"But if policymakers in Baghdad do not act soon, water could well be the source of renewed strife, not between Baghdad and its neighbors, but between Iraq's already deeply divided population," the weekly warned.

"If water availability in the country continues to fall and the quality of what is on offer is not increased, the government will have no one to blame but itself."

International aid organizations have been reporting an increase in violent incidents concerning water supply.

This is happening against a worrying backdrop of mounting sectarian violence between Iraq's majority Shiites, who dominate the government and the security forces, and the minority Sunnis who lost power when Saddam Hussein's dictatorship was toppled after the U.S.-invasion of March 2003. […]

Iraq's water comes primarily from the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. Both rise in Turkey, which has constructed a chain of dams over the last decade, with more to come. This has drastically reduced the flow of water into Iraq.

Syria, which has also suffered because of the Turkish dams, and Iran have been building dams too, further cutting the river flows from the north and the east into a country that until the late 1950s was a breadbasket for the Arab world.

Iraqi farmers recently blocked border crossings from Iran east of Baghdad to protest Tehran's diversion of the al-Wind River that irrigates one of Iraq's largest agricultural areas.

"Cutting water is a crime against life," the farmers' leader declared.

"Iran has diverted 15 tributaries to the Tigris since 2006 alone," observed Casey Walther, who, until earlier this month, was UNESCO's American water projects coordinator in Iraq.

Two new Iranian dams could potentially cut off water to two of Iraq's main dams at Haditha in the northwest and Mosul in the north.

"I visited them last summer and were already down to about 50 percent of capacity," said Walther. […]

With tension over the dwindling water supply escalating, Walther said he fears the worst.

"I'm concerned that when you look at the hydrological makeup of the country, the water comes from the northwest and travels down to the southeast, which is pretty much the country's ethnic fault lines," he observed. […]

Iraq water crisis could stir ethnic clash

Native people of the Gwichin Nation formed a human banner on the banks of Alaska's Porcupine River in in 2010 to protest environmental damage done by oil firms. 'Around the Arctic there is neither the technology nor the capacity to respond to oil accidents,' says Alexander Shestakov, the head of the WWF Arctic Program. REUTERS / Camila Roy-Spectral Q

By Margaret Kriz Hobson
28 January 2012

A group of 573 scientists today released a letter (PDF) to President Obama asking him to stop oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic waters until experts can study the proposed oil development's impacts on sensitive Arctic ecosystems and native subsistence activities. …

"We want to make it a high priority for the administration to really focus in on the safety, the science, the challenges in the Arctic and the need for more of a comprehensive innovative research and monitoring program that guides decisions about where and how drilling can take place," said Marilyn Heiman, director of Pew Environment Group's U.S. Arctic program.

Pew's campaign to slow oil development in the U.S. Arctic began in December with online ads and broadcast commercials, including advertisements after the State of the Union address on CNN and MSNBC. Next week, the group is also running ads in The New York Times and other media outlets.

[Here’s the text of the letter.]

January 23, 2012

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Secretary Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear President Obama and Secretary Salazar,

Decisions about resource extraction on the Outer Continental Shelf should be based on sound scientific information. Your administration first displayed a strong commitment to science during the President’s inaugural address in 2009. This commitment was underscored by Secretary Salazar’s announcement on March 31, 2010 when, as a part of a three-pronged approach to Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas development, he directed the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to conduct an evaluation of science needs and gaps in the U.S. Arctic Ocean. The evaluation would help the Department of the Interior determine how best to “…conduct scientific analyses to gather the information we need to develop resources in the right places and the right ways.”1

The USGS completed its task in June 2011, releasing USGS Circular 1370: An Evaluation of the Science Needs to Inform Decisions on Outer Continental Shelf Energy Development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska. The report is commendably objective and broad-ranging. We are grateful to the Secretary of the Interior for commissioning it and to the authors of and contributors to the report for their hard work. The report’s 62 recommendations indicate many pressing needs including:

  • further research on the physical and biological environment of the region,
  • studies on specific aspects of the life history of important species,
  • the development of a comprehensive monitoring program that can detect environmental change and identify the drivers of such change,
  • the synthesis of existing information in order to answer key questions including the identification of ecologically significant areas,
  • an assessment of cumulative impacts from multiple sources,
  • greater inclusion of the traditional knowledge of Arctic residents,
  • the creation of a data management system that provides timely sharing of information from all research activities, and
  • a closer integration of scientific studies and findings with decisions being made about offshore industrial activity.

We, the undersigned 573 research scientists, call upon the Administration to follow through on its commitment to science by acting on the USGS recommendations. Doing so prior to authorizing new oil and gas activity in the Arctic Ocean will respect the national significance of the environment and cultures of U.S. Arctic waters and demonstrate the value that your Administration places on having a sound scientific basis for managing industrial development of the Outer Continental Shelf.


Hundreds of scientists ask Obama to halt drilling

Aerial view of Nagasaki after the U.S. atomic bombing, on 9 August 1945. via

By arevamirpal::laprimavera
28 January 2012

Toshihiro Takatsuji, associate professor at Nagasaki University announced the result of his measurement of radioactive cesium in the air at an international symposium, and said a high level of cesium-134 (11,300 becquerels/kg) was detected from the dust collected in the filter paper in early April last year in Nagasaki City, 1,000 kilometers away from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

It took him 9 months to reveal what he had known in April last year. Not bad, I guess, considering there are many others who still hold back information that they obtained in March and April last year while they eagerly wait for the acceptance of their papers at international peer-review journals. Some information could have made a big difference in how people responded to the nuclear crisis if it had been revealed in a timely manner.

But maybe not in this case, as I cannot compare this number with any other number. How about the measurement of air filter papers in Fukushima or Tokyo during the same time period? How about the measurement in Nagasaki prior to the nuclear accident? What are we comparing this Nagasaki number to?

Chugoku Shinbun (1/26/2012):

福島第1原発から約千キロ離れた長崎市の大気観測所の吸引調査で、事故1カ月後に高い数値の放射性物質が確認されていたことが分かった。広島市南区の広島 大広仁会館で25日にあった同大原爆放射線医科学研究所(原医研)の国際シンポジウムで長崎大の高辻俊宏准教授が報告した。

It has been revealed that the suction survey at an atmospheric observatory in Nagasaki City, about 1000 kilomters from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, showed a high level of radioactive materials one month after the nuclear accident. Toshihiro Takatsuji, associate professor at Nagasaki University reported at an international symposium by Hiroshima University Research Institute of Radiation Biology and Medicine (RIRBM) held on January 25 at Hiroshima University in Hiroshima City.


Professor Takatsuji measured the amount of radioactive cesium in the air captured by the air suction apparatus and on the filter paper at the suction entrance every week after the nuclear accident. He reported the results from March 23 to July 27, 2011.


The week beginning on April 6 registered the highest level of radioactive cesium. The density of cesium-134 on the dust caught by the filter paper was 11,300 becquerels/kg, equivalent to the level seen in the soil in Iitate-mura in Fukushima Prefecture. […]

11,300 becquerels/kg of cesium-134. No information about cesium-137, if it was detected at all in the air or on the filter paper.

I dispute the reference to Iitate-mura, though. From what I have read, the density of radioactive cesium in Iitate-mura's soil is much higher (50,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium). […]

Now They Tell Us: Detection of High-Level Cesium-134 in Nagasaki City in April 2011

Dying forest near South Sister, Smith Rock State Park, Oregon. Robert Brown

Prominent doom blogger Gail Zawacki, of Wit’s End fame, has succumbed to the demands of her high-school-aged kid and created a new website for her collection of photographs and scientific papers. Here’s how Gail describes the new site:

I hadn't paid much attention to climate change, even though I saw An Inconvenient Truth when it first appeared in the theaters. I had the impression that climate change was going to affect places far away, in the distant future.

That changed in August of 2008. To my astonishment, the leaves on the trees wilted abruptly.  All of them, all at once, were hanging straight down, limp and lifeless.  I had never seen anything like it, and nobody else seemed to notice or care. I realized only a major impact could affect them so profoundly.

I started to read about climate change, and to write scientists and foresters, trying to learn what was happening to the trees. I assumed that a very long-term decline in precipitation and snow cover must be causing the trees to die off. In the fall of that year, the conifers began producing cones in excess, and dropping their needles, which I read is a sign of imminent death.

Once I started to educate myself about our changing climate, I quickly realized that the time to stop burning fuel was probably around 1960.  Amplifying feedbacks are now well underway, and unstoppable, as is ocean acidification.  There is no question that we have set in motion a catastrophe that can only result in mass extinctions, perhaps even of ourselves.

In the course of grieving over this realization, I continued to study the trees, perplexed by the dramatic and suddenness of symptoms of distress. In the summer of 2009, I came to the conclusion that drought can not explain tree decline, because young trees being watered in nurseries, and annual plants - even heat tolerant ornamentals from much hotter latitudes - exhibited the same damaged foliage as the season progressed.

Simply by process of elimination it became clear that the only component of the environment that all plant life shares in common is the atmosphere.  Reluctantly, I became convinced that what is injuring vegetation is air pollution.  Like many people, I assumed that because the air looks clear, it is clean.  Ozone, however, is invisible, just like oxygen, nitrogen, and CO2 … and the constant background levels are increasing every year.  I quickly discovered, to my amazement, that there has been a vast amount of scientific research on this topic and in fact, it is quite well known to government agencies, foresters, and agronomists that ozone is harmful to human health, crops, and trees. […]

Check out Gail’s new site, if you’re interested in the effects of pollution on the world’s forests. It’s your one-stop-shop for all of the scientific evidence that you need to foresee a planet without trees.

Dead Trees … Dying Forests

In this undated file photo released by Transocean, the ultra-deepwater semi-submersible rig Deepwater Horizon is shown operating in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. AP Photo / TransoceanBy Cain Burdeau of the Associated Press
28 January 2012

NEW ORLEANS – On the day the Deepwater Horizon sank, BP officials warned in an internal memo that if the well was not protected by the blow-out preventer at the drill site, crude oil could burst into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 3.4 million gallons a day, an amount a million gallons higher than what the government later believed spilled daily from the site.

The email conversation, which BP agreed to release Friday as part of federal court proceedings, suggests BP managers recognized the potential of the disaster in its early hours, and company officials sought to make sure that the model-developed information wasn't shared with outsiders. The emails also suggest BP was having heated discussions with Coast Guard officials over the potential of the oil spill.

The memo was released as part of the court proceedings to determine the division of responsibility for the nation's worst offshore oil disaster, which began when the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon exploded April 20, 2010, killing 11 men about 50 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast. The first phase of the trial is set to start Feb. 27.

BP officials declined to comment on the emails late Friday.

The official amount of oil that flowed from the well was pegged at 206 million gallons from at least April 22 until the well was capped on July 15, a period of 85 days. That's a daily flow rate of about 2.4 million gallons — two-thirds of the way to BP's projection of what could leak from the well if it was an "open hole." BP has disputed the government's estimates.

Having an accurate flow rate estimate is needed to determine how much in civil and criminal penalties BP and the other companies drilling the well face under the Clean Water Act.

In the memo, a BP official urges not to share the flow-rate projections and refers to the "difficult discussions" the company was having at the time with the Coast Guard.

Gary Imm, a BP manager, told Rob Marshall, BP's subsea manager in the Gulf, to tell the modeler doing the estimates "not to communicate to anyone on this."

"A number of people have been looking at this we already have had difficult discussions with the USCG on the numbers," Imm said in the email string, referring to the Coast Guard and flow estimates. […]

BP emails reveal company veiling spill rate

Chinese parents with children suffering from respiratory ailments, possibly caused by air pollution, flock to the Capital Institute of Pediatrics in Beijing. Gilles Sabrie for The New York Times

27 January 2012

BEIJING – Weary of waiting for the authorities to alert residents to the city’s most pernicious air pollutant, citizen activists last May took matters here into their own hands: they bought their own $4,000 air-quality monitor and posted its daily readings on the Internet.

That began a chain reaction. Volunteers in Shanghai and Guangzhou purchased monitors in December, followed by citizens in Wenzhou, who are selling oranges to finance their device. Wenzhou donated $50 to volunteers in Wuhan, 140 miles inland. Officials have claimed for years that the air quality in fast-growing China is constantly improving. Beijing, for example, was said to have experienced a record 274 “blue sky” days in 2011, a statistic belied by the heavy smog smothering the city for much of the year.

But faced with an Internet-led brush fire of criticism, the edifice of environmental propaganda is collapsing. The government recently reversed course and began to track the most pernicious measure of urban air pollution — particulates 2.5 microns in diameter or less, or PM 2.5. It decreed that about 30 major cities must begin monitoring the particulates this year, followed by about 80 more next year.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection also promised to set health standards for such fine particulates “as soon as possible.” Last week, after years of concealing its data on such pollutants, Beijing began publishing hourly readings from one monitoring station.

Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, a Beijing nonprofit group, credits the Chinese public for the breakthroughs. “At the beginning of last year, we had almost lost hope that the PM 2.5 would be integrated into the standards,” Mr. Ma said. “But at the end of the day, the people spoke so loudly that they made their voice heard.”

The fine particulates, caused by dust or emissions from vehicles, coal combustion, factories, and construction sites, are among the most hazardous because they easily penetrate lungs and enter the bloodstream. Chronic exposure increases the risk of cardiovascular ailments, respiratory disease and lung cancer. The Chinese government has monitored exposure levels in 20 cities and 14 other sites, reportedly for as long as five years, but has kept the data secret.

It sought 18 months ago to silence the American Embassy in Beijing as well, arguing that American officials had insulted the Chinese government by posting readings from the PM 2.5 monitor atop the embassy on Twitter. A Foreign Ministry official warned that the embassy’s data could lead to “social consequences” in China and asked the embassy to restrict access to it. The embassy refused, and Chinese citizens now translate and disseminate the readings widely.

While China has made gains on some other airborne toxins, the PM 2.5 data is far from reassuring in a country that annually has hundreds of thousands of premature deaths related to air pollution. In an unreleased December report relying on government data, the World Bank said average annual PM 2.5 concentrations in northern Chinese cities exceeded American limits by five to six times as much, and two to four times as much in southern Chinese cities.

Nine of 13 major cities failed more than half the time to meet even the initial annual mean target for developing countries set by the World Health Organization. Environmental advocates here expect China to adopt that target as its PM 2.5 standard.

Wang Yuesi, the chief air-pollution scientist at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, estimated this month that Beijing needed at least 20 years to reach that goal. […]

Activists Crack China’s Wall of Denial About Air Pollution

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National current-account balances as a percentage of world gross product, 1996-2013. World Economic Situation and Prospects 2012 / IMF, World Economic Outlook database, September 2011.

The large and persistent external imbalances in the global economy that have developed over the past decade remain a point of concern for policymakers. Reducing these imbalances has been the major focus of consultations among G20 Finance Ministers under the G20 Framework for Strong, Sustainable and Balanced Growth and the related Mutual Assessment Process (MAP) during 2011. The imbalances have declined during the current economic downturn, but there is concern that in the absence of corrective actions, they will rise again as the world economy recovers. The Cannes Action Plan for Growth and Jobs, adopted by the G20 leaders at the Cannes Summit on 4 November 2011, includes some concrete policy commitments towards such corrective action.

In practice, after a substantial narrowing during the Great Recession, the external imbalances of the major economies stabilized at about half of their pre-crisis peak levels (relative to GDP) during 2010-2011 (figure I.9). The United States remained the largest deficit economy, with an estimated external deficit of about $450 billion (3 per cent of GDP) in 2011, but the deficit has come down substantially from the peak of $800 billion (6 per cent of GDP) registered in 2006. The external surpluses in China, Germany, Japan and a group of fuel-exporting countries, which form the counterpart to the United States deficit, have narrowed, albeit to varying degrees. China, for instance, registered a surplus of about $250 billion (less than 4 per cent of GDP) in 2011, dropping from a high of 10 per cent of GDP in 2007. Japan is estimated to have registered a surplus of 2.5 per cent of GDP in 2011, a reduction of one percentage point of GDP compared with the level in 2010 and about half the size of the peak level reached in 2007. While Germany’s surplus remained at about 5 per cent of GDP in 2011, the current account for the euro area as a whole was virtually in balance. Large surpluses, relative to GDP, were still found in oil-exporting countries, reaching 20 per cent of GDP or more in some of the oil-exporting countries in Western Asia.

At issue is whether the adjustment of the imbalances in major economies has been mainly cyclical or structural. In the United States, some of the corresponding adjustment in the domestic saving-investment gap seems to be structural. For example, the household saving rate has increased from about 2 per cent of disposable household income before the financial crisis to about 5 per cent in the past few years. Despite a decline in recent months, it is likely that the average saving rate will stay at this level in the coming years, given the changes that have taken place in house financing and the banking sector after the financial crisis. On the other hand, the significant decline in the business investment rate and the surge in the Government deficit in the aftermath of the financial crisis are more likely to be cyclical. Business investment has been recovering slowly, while the budget deficit is expected to decrease somewhat. As a result, in the baseline  scenario, the external deficit of the United States may stabilize at about 3 per cent of GDP in the medium run.

With regard to the surplus countries, the decline in the external surplus of China has also been driven in part by structural change. China’s exchange-rate policy has become more flexible, with the renminbi appreciating gradually but steadily vis-à-vis the United States dollar over the past year. Meanwhile, the Government has scaled up measures to boost household consumption, aligning the goal of reducing China’s external surplus with that of rebalancing the structure of the economy towards greater reliance on domestic demand. However, the process of rebalancing can be only gradual over the medium to long run so as to prevent it from being disruptive. In Japan, a continued appreciation of the yen has contained its external surplus. In Germany, room remains for policies to stimulate more domestic demand so as to further narrow its external surplus. The surpluses in oil-exporting countries are of a quite different nature from those in other economies, as these countries need to share the wealth generated by the endowment of oil with future generations via a continued accumulation of the surplus into the foreseeable future.

World Economic Situation and Prospects 2012 [pdf]

By David Ljunggren, with additional reporting by Jeff Jones in Calgary; editing by Peter Galloway
26 January 2012

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada disassociated itself on Thursday from an embarrassing official policy paper that said the country's independent energy regulator, now studying a controversial oil pipeline, is in fact a government ally.

Critics have long charged the right-of-center Conservative government is trying to pressure the regulator - the National Energy Board (NEB) - to approve Enbridge Inc's plan to build a pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to the Pacific Coast.

The NEB this month started hearings into the C$5.5 billion ($5.5 billion) Northern Gateway pipeline, which the government says is needed to send more oil to Asian markets.

Opponents of the pipeline include green groups and some native Indian bands, who say they fear the consequences of a spill. Ottawa says some critics are foreign-funded radicals and complains the regulatory process will take too long.

Greenpeace on Thursday released a policy paper from April 2011, which listed the NEB as one of the government's allies. The paper was part of a campaign to counter widespread criticism of the oil sands in the European Union.

The paper - written by bureaucrats at the international trade ministry - also said that among the government's adversaries on the file were aboriginal groups, also known in Canada as First Nations. […]

At 170 billion barrels, Canada's oil sands represent the third-largest crude deposit in the world. Despite concerns about the environmental impact of development, Ottawa touts the resource as one of the country's great economic opportunities and job creators.

The policy document was obtained by the Climate Action Network group through access to information and then made public by Greenpeace.

"Canadians should be concerned when a supposedly arms-length agency that is supposed to regulate the oil industry, including conducting hearings on Enbridge's proposed new tar sands pipeline across British Columbia, is listed as an 'ally'," said Keith Stewart of Greenpeace. […]

Among other allies listed by the policy document were European energy companies, some of which have invested heavily in the tar sands.

Canada plays down embarrassing oil sands document

Doppler radar view of Hurricane Gustav's landfall at Cocodrie, Lousiana, 70 miles southwest of New Orleans, on 1 September 2008.

By Sami Grover, Business / Corporate Responsibility
24 January 2012

This is ironic.

Having bank rolled climate denial for years, it seems many oil companies and utilities are planning for the inevitability of man-made climate change. Marc Gunther has a piece on the coming shift to climate preparedness that is well worth reading:

Utilities, the oil and gas industry, agricultural companies, and insurers are building assumptions about rising temperatures and extreme weather events into their scenario planning. This is what's being called climate adaptation or climate preparedness. The payoff from investing in adaptation could be substantial. In 2011, insured losses in the U.S. from natural catastrophes, including tornadoes, floods and hurricanes, topped $105 billion, breaking the record of $101 billion set in 2005, the year of Hurricane Katrina, according to Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurance firm. Some of those losses had nothing to do with climate change, but others did.

It seems resilient business is indeed becoming mainstream. It's just a shame that some of those businesses are responsible for landing us in trouble in the first place.

Despite Denial, Even Oil Companies Are Planning for Inevitable Climate Change

The Jolly Roger of the honeycomb, from 'The Honeybee Crisis: Colony Collapse Disorder', advocacy.britannica.comBy Mike Barrett, NaturalSociety
12 January 2012

It has recently been reported that certain research was suppressed concerning the bee decline which has been occurring over the past few years. It seems that the large sum of money raked in by Bayer, a maker of pesticides, was enough to kick research under the carpet that linked the company’s pesticide to the massive bee decline.

There has been a great deal of cover up and secrecy regarding the ongoing bee deaths, enraging environmentalists and activists alike. About one year ago I reported on how the USDA and EPA knew why a series of ‘mysterious’ downfalls were occurring with crops, birds, and bees. Although technological products like cell phone towers and cell phones are hurting the bee population, it was actually the pesticide brought to you by Bayer which was causing the damage, and the USDA knew of it all along. In my article, I reported:

Just as many potential explanations arose over the mysterious bird deaths, many different theories have been proposed to explain the bee decline. Electromagnetic radiation, malnutrition, and climate have all taken the heat of critics looking for answers. Recently, however, a document was leaked revealing that a bee-killing pesticide put in use by the EPA may be to blame. Adding to the controversy, more records have emerged showing that the USDA was fully aware of the pesticide’s threat to not only bees, but humans … Neonicotinoids, the particular type of pesticides used, are absorbed systemically into plants, including the pollen and nectar. Once the bees begin to pollinate, they also absorb the insecticide and die.

Dr. Jeffrey Pettis is a US government researcher and leader at the Beltville, Maryland bee lab. Pettis’ completed his research on how Bayer’s pesticide is contributing to the bee decline was completed 2 years ago, though it was never able to be published. He finally received an opportunity to share his research when he was interviewed for the film, The Strange Disappearance of the Bees. Pettis states:

[It] was completed almost two years ago but it has been too long in getting out. I have submitted my manuscript to a new journal but cannot give a publication date or share more of this with you at this time. […]

USDA Ignores Pesticide Ravaging Bee Population, Threatening Global Environment

Pink camellia: Flower could be growing farther north as climate changes in North America. Getty ImagesBy Janice Lloyd, USA TODAY
26 January 2012

Southern magnolias, lovers of sultry weather, braving the chillier Northeast?

Camellias, a New Orleans trademark, staking out in North Carolina and higher latitudes?

It's true, gardening experts say, and expect similar oddities to represent the new norm.

It is now safe to plant new species in many parts of the nation, according to a new government map released Wednesday showing new growing guidelines for the first time in decades. A gradual northward warming trend makes it possible to plant trees and other perennials that would have perished in colder zones. The "hardiness" zones, the gospel to the nation's 82 million gardeners that are printed on the back of seed packs and catalogs, are based on average minimum temperatures.

"It is a good thing the government has updated the map," says Woodrow Nelson, director of marketing communications for the Arbor Day Foundation. "Our members have been noticing these climate changes for years and have been successfully growing new kinds of trees in places they wouldn't grow before."

For example, Pennsylvania's growing zone was considered risky for southern magnolias, according to the old government map dating to 1990. But the new map, based on updated weather statistics from 1996 to 2005, puts Pennsylvania, like much of the Northeast, in a warmer growing zone.

Catherine Woteki, an undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, which issued the new guidelines, cautioned against reading too much into the changes. "We do not think the plant hardiness zone methodology is appropriate for making comments on climate change," she says.

Might gardeners be going out on a limb? Steve Carroll, director of public programs at the State Arboretum in Virginia, advises gardeners to check with their local nurseries or a university extension program for advice.

"There's definitely a changing climate," says Charlie Nardozzi, a gardening consultant in northern Vermont. "But that doesn't mean we won't have a harsh winter again that could kill all their plants."

Southern plants find fertile ground farther north

Cover of UK Climate Change Risk Assessment: Government Report, January 2012, Reed Landberg
25 January 2012

Sugar and wheat farming probably will become more productive as the average temperature rises across the U.K. in the next 40 years, the government concluded in a report [pdf] assessing the impact of climate change.

Sugar beet yields may rise 20 percent to 70 percent and wheat yields by as much as 140 percent because the atmosphere is warming, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said today.

“A warmer climate presents opportunities to grow new crops such as soya, sunflowers, peaches, apricots, and grapes,” the department said a statement in London.

The study also found that climate-related deaths would increase in the summer and decline in the winter and that both floods and dangerous droughts would become more frequent. The report is meant to advise Prime Minister David Cameron’s government on the measures it needs to endorse to adapt to climate change.

“Without an effective plan to prepare for the risks from climate change, the country may sleepwalk into disaster,” John Krebs, a lawmaker who leads the Committee on Climate Change, said in the statement.

The number of days that the temperature rises above 26 degrees Celsius (79 degrees Fahrenheit) may increase from about 18 currently to 27 to 121 days by the 2080s, Defra said. That would reduce the need for heating in buildings and increase the demand for air conditioning.

Premature deaths in cold weather that currently range from 26,000 to 57,000 a year in the U.K. may decline to 3,900 to 24,000 by the 2050s. An additional 580 to 5,900 people may die in heat waves by then, the report said.

U.K. Expects Warming to Boost Crop Yields From Sugar to Wheat

Pakistani villagers carry a motorbike on a bed frame through flood water following heavy monsoon rain at Golarchi town in Badin district, about 200 km east of Karachi, on 13 September 2011. Asif Hassan / AFP / Getty Images

DAVOS, 26 January 2012 (The Times of India) – Pointing out that Pakistan has "excellent" relationship with India, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday said cooperation between the two to tackle climate change was "doable".

He said Islamabad wants to work with New Delhi on this front.

"Yes, certainly there can be cooperation. We have excellent relationship with India and we want to work together," Gilani said when asked if India and Pakistan can work together to tackle climate change.

"We have been having a number of delegations from both countries on various matters like finance and industry. Certainly cooperation is doable", Gilani said during a panel discussion on climate change at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2012.

Earlier in his address, Gilani said Pakistan has been hit by "horrible" droughts and floods last year and sought a "global fund" to tackle the climate risk issues.

"It (climate change) is quite visible in my country. We have suffered both drought and heavy rains in past one year. It was horrible, not just by our estimates but also as per the estimates of World Bank and Asian Development Bank," Gilani said.

"There has to be global solution to these problems. The first step we can take is establishing a global fund to tackle the climate risk issues and Pakistan would be happy to partner," Gilani said.

The United Nations has already proposed a USD 100 billion Green Climate Fund.

The fund was central to agreements reached in 2010 by UN treaty negotiators in Cancun, Mexico.

"If the glaciers in Himalayas melt, there will be huge floods in Pakistan," he said adding that Pakistan has taken some steps by creating a disaster management cell which he himself was overseeing.

Gilani arrived here yesterday from Islamabad. This is his first visit outside Pakistan since the memo scandal erupted late last year throwing his government in a political whirlpool that even threatened his continuity at office.

One year after the worst flooding disaster in the history of the region, more floods triggered by heavy rains had devastated parts of Southern Pakistan last year.

Pakistan wants to work with India on climate change: Yousuf Raza Gilani

Scientists say at least 2 billion dead bodies will be burned and converted into fossil fuels. From 'Scientists: 'Look, One-Third Of The Human Race Has To Die For Civilization To Be Sustainable, So How Do We Want To Do This?'',

[This is Desdemona’s kind of satire.]

WASHINGTON, 26 January 2012 (The Onion) – Saying there's no way around it at this point, a coalition of scientists announced Thursday that one-third of the world population must die to prevent wide-scale depletion of the planet's resources—and that humankind needs to figure out immediately how it wants to go about killing off more than 2 billion members of its species.

Representing multiple fields of study, including ecology, agriculture, biology, and economics, the researchers told reporters that facts are facts: Humanity has far exceeded its sustainable population size, so either one in three humans can choose how they want to die themselves, or there can be some sort of government-mandated liquidation program—but either way, people have to start dying.

And soon, the scientists confirmed.

"I'm just going to level with you—the earth's carrying capacity will no longer be able to keep up with population growth, and civilization will end unless large swaths of human beings are killed, so the question is: How do we want to do this?" Cambridge University ecologist Dr. Edwin Peters said. "Do we want to give everyone a number and implement a death lottery system? Incinerate the nation's children? Kill off an entire race of people? Give everyone a shotgun and let them sort it out themselves?"

"Completely up to you," he added, explaining he and his colleagues were "open to whatever." "Unfortunately, we are well past the point of controlling overpopulation through education, birth control, and the empowerment of women. In fact, we should probably kill 300 million women right off the bat."

Because the world's population may double by the end of the century, an outcome that would lead to a considerable decrease in the availability of food, land, and water, researchers said that, bottom line, it would be helpful if a lot of people chose to die willingly, the advantage being that these volunteers could decide for themselves whether they wished to die slowly, quickly, painfully, or peacefully.

Additionally, the scientists noted that in order to stop the destruction of global environmental systems in heavily populated regions, there's no avoiding the reality that half the world's progeny will have to be sterilized.

"The longer we wait, the higher the number of people who will have to die, so we might as well just get it over with," said Dr. Chelsea Klepper, head of agricultural studies at Purdue Univer­sity, and the leading proponent of a worldwide death day in which 2.3 billion people would kill themselves en masse at the exact same time. "At this point, it's merely a question of coordination. If we can get the populations of New York City, Los Angeles, Beijing, India, Europe, and Latin America to voluntarily off themselves at 6 p.m. EST on June 1, we can kill the people that need to be killed and the planet can finally start renewing its resources." […]

Scientists: 'Look, One-Third Of The Human Race Has To Die For Civilization To Be Sustainable, So How Do We Want To Do This?' via Ketsugami

Imja glacier lake, situated at 5100 meters altitude in Nepal's Everest region. At its center, the lake is about 600m wide, and according to government studies, up to 96.5m deep in some places. It is growing by 47m a year, nearly three times as fast as other glacier lake in Nepal.

By Gopal Sharma; editing by Paul Casciato
27 January 2012

BARAHBISE, Nepal (Reuters) – Looking at the swirling grey waters of the Bhote Koshi River, Ratna Kaji remembers when it turned into a "monster," leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.

"It came down roaring, washed away homes and people when they were sleeping," the 77-year-old said of the 1996 flood, caused by a massive landslide that blocked the river which eventually gushed out by breaking its mud wall.

"People had hardly any time to gather their belongings."

Within minutes, the flood washed away 54 people in this beautiful but rugged area, destroying 22 houses and a section of the Kodari road, a major artery connecting the Nepali capital of Kathmandu to Tibet. The road is also used by climbers to get to the northern side of Mount Everest.

That wasn't the first time that Kaji saw tragedy strike the area around Barahbise, a trading town of more than 6,000 people some 100 km (62 miles) northeast of Kathmandu -- and climate scientists fear it won't be the last.

Global warming, which is hitting Nepal particularly hard, is causing glaciers to melt, raising the spectre of another disaster like the one in 1981. Then, the flow from a glacial lake in Tibet set off a flood that killed at least five people in Nepal and caused widespread destruction.

There are more than 3,200 glaciers in Nepal, and 14 of them are at risk of bursting the dams which control the melting water that flows from them, officials say.

"The melting of glaciers that forms lakes can only be attributed to climate change," said Arun Bhakta Shrestha, climate change specialist at the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which studies climate change in the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

"There is no reason other than this for the change in the glaciers."

According to ICIMOD, which oversees a vast swathe of rugged land from Pakistan to Myanmar, the earth's temperature has increased by an average of 0.74 degrees Celsius over the past 100 years.

But warming across the Himalayas has been greater than the global average, with dire consequences.

Government officials said the average temperature in Nepal was rising by 0.06 degrees Celsius annually, due in part to its location between India and China, two of the world's heaviest polluters.

Over the past three decades, Bhutan's glaciers have shrunk by 22 percent and Nepal's by 21 percent, according to three studies recently released by ICIMOD.

They add that the melting glaciers will have an adverse impact on biodiversity, hydropower, industries, and agriculture, flooding hydroelectric plants and inundating fields.

The region is also becoming ever more dangerous to live in.

The area in Tibet where the Bhote Koshi River originates has several glacial lakes, Shrestha said. Nine of them are at risk of bursting their dams.

"This could happen any time and the downstream areas are at very high risk of another flood," said the bespectacled scientist. […]

"Monster" rules Nepal village on climate frontline

Coastal erosion at Singapore's East Coast Park, May 2008. wildshores.blogspot.comBy David Fogarty; Editing by Ron Popeski and Sanjeev Miglani
26 January 2012

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – A 15-km (10 mile) stretch of crisp white beach is one of the key battlegrounds in Singapore's campaign to defend its hard-won territory against rising sea levels linked to climate change.

Stone breakwaters are being enlarged on the low-lying island state's man-made east coast and their heights raised. Barges carrying imported sand top up the beach, which is regularly breached by high tides.

Singapore, the world's second most densely populated country after Monaco, covers 715 square km (276 sq miles). It has already reclaimed large areas to expand its economy and population -- boosting its land area by more than 20 percent since 1960.

But the new land is now the frontline in a long-term battle against the sea.

Every square metre is precious in Singapore.

One of the world's wealthiest nations in per-capita terms, it is also among the most vulnerable to climate change that is heating up the planet, changing weather patterns and causing seas to rise as the oceans warm and glaciers and icecaps melt.

Late last year, the government decided the height of all new reclamations must be 2.25 metres (7.5 feet) above the highest recorded tide level -- a rise of a metre over the previous mandated minimum height.

The additional buffer was costly but necessary, Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Reuters in a recent interview.

"You are buying insurance for the future," he said during a visit to a large flood control barrier that separates the sea from a reservoir in the central business area.

The decision underscores the government's renowned long-term planning and the dilemma the country faces in fighting climate change while still trying to grow. It also highlights the problem facing other low-lying island states and coastal cities and the need to prepare.

A major climate change review for the Chinese government last week said China's efforts to protect vulnerable coastal areas with embankments were inadequate. It said in the 30 years up to 2009, the sea level off Shanghai rose 11.5 centimeters (4.5 inches); in the next 30 years, it will probably rise another 10 to 15 centimeters. […]

The U.N. climate panel says sea levels could rise between 18 and 59 centimetres (7 to 24 inches) this century and more if parts of Antarctica and Greenland melt faster. Some scientists say the rise is more likely to be in a range of 1 to 2 metres.

Singapore could cope with a rise of 50 cm to 1 m, coastal scientist Teh Tiong Sa told Reuters during a tour of the East Coast Park, the city's main recreation area.

"But a rise of two metres would turn Singapore into an island fortress," said Teh, a retired teacher from Singapore's National Institute for Education. That would mean constructing more and higher walls to protect against the sea. […]

Climate change presents a host of other challenges.

More intense rainfall has caused embarrassing floods in the premier Orchard Road shopping area.

And the government says average daily temperature in tropical Singapore could increase by 2.7 to 4.2 degrees Celsius (4.9 to 7.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from the current average of 26.8 deg C (80.2 F) by 2100, which could raise energy use for cooling.

Here lies another dilemma. The country is already one of the most energy intensive in Asia to power its industries and fiercely air conditioned malls and glass office towers -- a paradox in a country at such risk from climate change. […]

Singapore raises sea defences against tide of climate change


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