Saturday, November 10, 2007

Spain shown perils of climate change

La Manga del Mar in Murcia.

Digitally retouched picture of La Manga del Mar in Murcia to show before (top) and after (below) a rise in sea level. Photograph: Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images

It's an apocalyptic view of the future, a stark warning to Spain of what the country could look like if action is not taken to reduce the effects of climate change.

The warning comes in a book, Photoclima, launched this week by Greenpeace in which images of some of Spain's most emblematic places have been altered to show what they could look like in the future. Using statistics from the UN panel on climate change and a touch of digital makeup Greenpeace hopes to scare Spain into taking action.

We see the Ebro river in Zaragoza as a dried-up riverbed in 2070, by which time the fields of Valencia, which have provided Spain with oranges for centuries, will have all but disappeared. Perhaps the most dramatic image is that of La Manga de Mar Menor in Murcia, where hotels and apartment blocks abut the Mediterranean. In a few decades, according to Greenpeace, most of this will be underwater.

According to the group's director in Spain, Juan López de Uralde, the intention was not to use "scientific rigour" but to "create alarm and a call to action". Mr Uralde is highly critical of the level of debate on climate change in Spain, where he says the last few weeks have seen a "frivolous" discussion on "marginal aspects" of climate change.

For example, when Al Gore visited Spain last month to highlight the dangers of climate change, the leader of the opposition People's party, Mariano Rajoy, openly questioned his judgment.

"Listen," said Mr Rajoy, "I've brought here 10 of the world's most important scientists and not one of them can guarantee what the weather will be like tomorrow ... How can anyone say what will happen to the world in 300 years?"

Carbon output rising faster than forecast, says study

· Global warming 'will come sooner and be stronger'
· Chinese growth and loss of natural 'sinks' highlighted

An iceberg off Ammassalik island, Greenland

Changing landscape - an iceberg off Ammassalik island, Greenland. Native people are being forced to retrain as their traditional livelihood disappears along with the ice. Photograph: John McConnico/AP

Scientists warned last night that global warming will be "stronger than expected and sooner than expected", after a new analysis showed carbon dioxide is accumulating in the atmosphere much faster than predicted.

Experts said that the rise was down to soaring economic development in China, and a reduction in the amount of carbon pollution soaked up by the world's land and oceans. It also means human emissions will have to be cut more sharply than predicted to avoid the likely effects.

Corinne Le Quere, a climate expert at the University of East Anglia and British Antarctic Survey, who helped conduct the study, said: "It's bad news because the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide has accelerated since 2000 in a way we did not expect. My biggest worry is people are discouraged by this and do nothing. I hope political leaders will act on this, because we need to do something fast."

The study worsens even the gloomy predictions of this year's report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IPCC, which shared the Nobel peace prize this month with Al Gore, said there were only eight years left to prevent the worst effects of global warming, by acting to curb emissions.

Dr Le Quere said: "We are emitting far more than anticipated when the IPCC scenarios were drawn up in the late 1990s." Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning has risen by an average 2.9% each year since 2000. During the 1990s the annual rise was 0.7%.

The new study explains abnormally high carbon dioxide measurements highlighted by the Guardian in January. At the time, scientists were puzzled why dozens of measuring stations across the world were showing a CO2 spike for 2006, the fourth year in the last five to show a sharp increase in the greenhouse gas.

Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is measured in parts per million (ppm); from 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5ppm each year; since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 1.9ppm.

The new study, published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), says three processes have contributed to this increase: growth in the world economy, heavy use of coal in China, and a weakening of natural "sinks" - forests, seas and soils that absorb carbon.

Pep Canadell, executive director of the Global Carbon Project, which carried out the research, said: "In addition to the growth of global population and wealth, we now know that significant contributions to the growth of atmospheric CO2 arise from the slowdown of natural sinks and the halt to improvements in the carbon intensity of wealth production."

The overall growth of the economy is the only one of the three factors accounted for in scientists' forecasts of climate change, which means the growth in atmospheric CO2 is about 35% larger than they expected. About half of this is down to the Chinese reliance on coal, which has forced up the carbon intensity of the overall world economy since 2000, reversing a trend of increasing energy efficiency since the 1970s. The rest of the rise is explained by the weakening of the natural carbon sinks.

Scientists assume about half of human carbon emissions are reabsorbed into the environment, but computer models predictincreased temperatures will reduce this effect. The PNAS report is the most convincing evidence so far that the global sinks have weakened over the last 50 years, though the large natural variations in carbon exchange between the earth and the atmosphere mean the team can be only 89% certain they have found an effect, short of the usual 95% confidence required to publish scientific findings.

Legal framework for carbon emission cuts

Britain will become the first country in the world to introduce legally binding targets to reduce carbon emissions in a bill announced in the Queen's speech today.

The climate change bill would create a long-term legal framework to reduce the UK's C02 emissions up until 2050.

"My government is committed to protecting the environment and to tackling climate change, both at home and abroad," the Queen said. "A bill will be brought forward to make the United Kingdom the first country in the world to introduce a legally binding framework to reduce carbon dioxide emissions."

The bill would enforce reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of at least 60% by 2050 and 26-32% by 2020, and introduce a new system of five-year carbon budgets.

It would also establish a new independent committee on climate change, which would advise the government on achieving the 2050 target and set out a sustainable programme of adaption.

The government said the bill would increase confidence and certainty for business planning and the investment in technology needed to move towards a low-carbon economy.

It would "create a new approach to managing and responding to climate change in the UK through setting ambitious targets, taking powers to help achieve them, strengthening the institutional framework, and establishing clear and regular accountability to parliament".

The introduction of the bill would enhance the operation of the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), which is expected to deliver significant carbon savings from the road transport sector by increasing the use of bio fuels, the government said.

It would also provide a power to pilot local authority incentives for household waste minimisation and recycling, and "provide a strong, sustainable framework for adapting to the impacts of climate change in the UK".

Environmental groups welcomed the introduction of the legislation but urged the government to go even further and look to make cuts of 80% by 2050.

Friends of the Earth director, Tony Juniper, said: "We're delighted that the UK is set to become the first nation to introduce legislation to cut its contribution to climate change. But the government must strengthen its proposed legislation if it is to be truly effective and deliver the scale of action that scientists are now calling for."

He called for yearly targets for cuts which would deliver at least an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050, and include Britain's share of emissions from international aviation and shipping.

"If Gordon Brown toughens up this legislation, his visions of becoming a world leader in developing a low-carbon future can become a reality."

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), which is a member of Stop Climate Chaos coalition, said that although this legislation would allow the government to set "meaningful and measurable targets", ministers should be bolder.

"Gordon Brown's announcement that the climate change committee will be asked to examine the case for an 80% cut in UK emissions by 2050 is a good start," a spokesman said. "We support the calls of a wide coalition of environmental NGOs for the climate change bill to include the UK's share of emissions from international aviation and shipping in its targets for emission reductions, and to set annual targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, rather than five year 'carbon budgets' as currently proposed."

The Green party's principal speaker, Caroline Lucas, said: "It's criminally irresponsible to adopt a target that not only flies in the face of science, but also undermines the UK's commitment to making a fair contribution to limiting average global temperature increases to no more than two degrees - scientists say anything higher will have catastrophic consequences.

"Whilst I welcome proposals to create a legal framework to reduce the UK's carbon dioxide emissions, low level targets that we are not likely to meet do not constitute radical action on climate change."

Colin Butfield, the head of campaigns at WWF UK, said: "The government now has an opportunity to prove its commitment to fighting climate change by setting more ambitious targets in the climate change bill. It is vital that the UK follows the lead of the Scottish government and commits to reducing emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

"All the science - including the government's own assessments - tell us that this is what is needed to avoid the most devastating impacts of climate change."

The Queen's speech also included an energy bill, which the government said is intended to help reduce emissions while providing the UK with a secure supply of energy.

The bill would facilitate private investment in offshore gas supply projects and carbon capture and storage, and strengthen the renewables obligation to boost renewable energy in the UK.

The energy bill also has provisions to fund the decommissioning and waste management of nuclear power stations if a decision is taken to allow private investment in new facilities.

The climate change bill is expected to be put before parliament later this month.

UN climate panel to meet, add pressure for action

From: By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent


OSLO (Reuters) - About 130 governments meet in Spain next week to agree a stark guide to the mounting risks of climate change that the United Nations says will leave no option but tougher action to fix the problem.

The U.N. climate panel, winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, will meet in Valencia from November 12-17 to condense 3,000 pages of already published science into a 20-page summary for policy makers.

A draft blames human activities for rising temperatures and says deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, are needed to avert ever more heatwaves, melting glaciers and rising seas.

"There is no reason to question the science any longer," said Achim Steiner, head of the U.N. Environment Programme, who said states should act "in the collective interest of humanity."

"Valencia will add further momentum in the mind of the public around the world that governments ... have no option but to move forward" with tougher policies, he told Reuters on Friday by telephone from Lisbon.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) comprises both government officials and scientists who will edit and agree a text that draws on work by 2,500 experts to give the most authoritative U.N. overview of global warming since 2001.

He said the world's environment ministers should approve a two-year timetable to work out a successor to the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, the main U.N. plan to curb warming until 2012, when they meet on the Indonesian island of Bali next month.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will attend the final day of the IPCC talks in Valencia.


Kyoto obliges 36 industrial nations to cut emissions by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. A new deal would aim to involve outsiders led by the United States and China, the world's top two emitters which have no Kyoto goals.

The draft summary, obtained by Reuters, says global warming is already under way and will be negative overall.

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level," it starts.

It says there is still time to slow warming, and even the toughest targets for curbing emissions would cost less than 0.12 percent per year of world gross domestic product until 2030.

Environmentalists expressed concern that some governments may seek to water down the IPCC conclusions to stall action. "We must allow scientists to present the unvarnished truth," said Hans Verolme of the WWF conservation group.

Some experts say the IPCC has been conservative in estimates of carbon dioxide emissions or rising sea levels, while a 2007 summer thaw of Arctic sea broke records.

"Some trends are at the upper part of the IPCC projections," said Eystein Jansen of Norway's Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research and an IPCC author.

(For accompanying factbox please click on

-- For Reuters' latest environment blogs click on:

(Editing by Caroline Drees)

U.N.'s Ban says global warming is "an emergency"

From: Juan Jose Lagorio, Reuters
Published November 10, 2007 06:00 PM /climate/article/24368

EDUARDO FREI BASE, Antarctica (Reuters) - With prehistoric Antarctic ice sheets melting beneath his feet, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for urgent political action to tackle global warming.

The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed faster than anywhere else on Earth in the last 50 years, making the continent a fitting destination for Ban, who has made climate change a priority since he took office earlier this year.

"I need a political answer. This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action," he said during a visit to three scientific bases on the barren continent, where temperatures are their highest in about 1,800 years.

Antarctica's ice sheets are nearly 1.5 miles thick on average -- five times the height of the Taipei 101 tower, the world's tallest building. But scientists say they are already showing signs of climate change.

Satellite images show the West Antarctic ice sheet is thinning and may even collapse in the future, causing sea levels to rise.

Amid occasional flurries of snow, Ban flew over melting ice fields in a light plane, where vast chunks of ice the size of six-story buildings could be seen floating off the coast after breaking away from ice shelves.

"All we've seen has been very impressive and beautiful, extraordinarily beautiful," he said late on Friday. "But at the same time it's disturbing. We've seen ... the melting of glaciers."


Ban is preparing for a U.N. climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia, in December, which is expected to kick off talks on a new accord to curb carbon emissions after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012.

Ban has focused strongly on the environment and held a climate change summit at the United Nations on the eve of the annual General Assembly gathering of world leaders.

On Saturday, he continued his South American tour at Chilean national park Torres del Paine, taking a helicopter tour over Patagonian ice fields that scientists say are melting fast. Ban was flown over a glacier marked by large cracks from ice that has melted and broken away.

"(Climate) change is progressing much faster than I had thought," he said, calling on developed countries in particular to do more.

Ban, the first U.N. chief to visit Antarctica, was also due to visit the Amazon rain forest in Brazil, a leading force in developing biofuels from crops as an alternative to fossil fuels. Fears about climate change have fueled a boom in biofuels.

Despite the controversy of diverting food crops into fuel production, Ban has said alternative energy sources are vital to addressing climate change.

Antarctica -- a continent with only about 80,000 temporary residents -- is 25 percent bigger than Europe and its ice sheets hold 90 percent of the fresh water on the Earth's surface.

© Reuters2007All rights reserved

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Spill closes S.F. beaches; oil washes up on Marin Headlands

San Francisco Chronicle

(11-08) 11:03 PST San Francisco - --
Heavy-duty bunker fuel oil from the 58,000 gallons that spilled from a container ship when it rammed the Bay Bridge has washed up on several San Francisco beaches and the Marin Headlands, officials said today.
Some 8,000 gallons of oil have been contained since Wednesday's accident, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. William Uberti said this morning. Large patches are still floating in the bay. Birds coated in the oil have been rescued from some beaches.
Oil began leaking into the water after the 65,131-ton Cosco Busan, an 810-foot-long container ship, crashed into the base of a tower of the Bay Bridge's western span in heavy fog at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
It was the first time in memory that an oceangoing ship had run into the bridge, which did not suffer major damage.
Authorities shut down Baker Beach, China Beach, Crissy Field and Fort Point in San Francisco after oil washed up on them Wednesday night. Alcatraz Island and Kirby Cove on the Marin Headlands coast have also been closed because of the oil.
A Golden Gate National Recreation Area ranger, stationed at a roadblock near the Point Bonita lighthouse on the Marin Headlands, said, "This area is all full of oil. You can smell it. This whole area is closed."
Chris Godley, emergency services manager for Marin County, said slicks had appeared in the water near the North Bay shoreline.
One slick, 50 yards long and 20 yards wide, was seen off Paradise Drive in Tiburon. Another was seen in Richardson Bay near Bayfront Park in Mill Valley, Godley said.
Representative from 13 agencies met this morning at Fort Mason to discuss the next steps.
Until 9 p.m. Wednesday, the Coast Guard said only 140 gallons had spilled from the vessel. That estimate came from the ship's owners, Uberti said, and the Coast Guard realized later after checking the bay that the magnitude was far greater.
Although the agency did not announce that news until well after sundown, Uberti said the initial cleanup response was appropriate.
The ship's owners called in a private cleanup company, O'Brien's Group of Southern California, immediately after the accident, Uberti said.
Barry McFarland, incident commander with the company, said that in addition to the fouled beaches, cleanup crews are concentrating on three main sheens of oil in the bay - one west of Treasure Island, a second north of the Bay Bridge and a third south of Angel Island.
Five vessels are in the bay and three are outside the Golden Gate looking for additional oil patches, he said. The company has laid down about 18,000 feet of containment boom, and about 115 people are at work in the field scooping up the oil.
McFarland could not say how long the effort would take.
"It's too early to tell any timeline," he said. "We'll be here for quite some time."
Wildlife officials said finding birds and other animals covered in oil is a high priority.
The spill threatens to coat the birds' feathers, making it impossible for them to stay warm when they get into the chilly bay water, said Dr. Mike Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. The UC Davis program organizes the wildlife aid response for the state Department of Fish and Game. The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito is also part of the network.
The most common species feeding at the Golden Gate at this time of year are western grebes and scoters.
"The birds' first response is to get out of the water (during a spill)," Ziccardi said. "They have a high metabolism and need to eat frequently. Because they're out of the water, they can't eat. They can become severely debilitated and can die unless brought into rehabilitation."
At the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, "we get them warm, we get them rehydrated and we get the oil off of them. The more quickly we can respond, the better it will be," Ziccardi said.
Residents who spot birds covered with oil should call (877) 823-6926.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Most ready for 'green sacrifices'


Most people are ready to make personal sacrifices to address climate change, according to a BBC poll of 22,000 people in 21 countries.

Four out of five people indicated they were prepared to change their lifestyle - even in the US and China, the world's two biggest emitters of carbon dioxide.

Opinion was split over tax rises on oil and coal - 44% against, 50% in favour.

Support would rise if the cash was used to boost efficiency and find new energy sources, the poll suggested.

Americans talk about how to address climate change

BBC environment reporter Matt McGrath says the poll suggests that in many countries people are more willing than their governments to contemplate serious changes to their lifestyles to combat global warming.

Overall, 83% of respondents throughout the world agreed that individuals would definitely or probably have to make lifestyle changes to reduce the amount of climate-changing gases they produce.

In almost all countries in Europe, and in the US, most people said they believed the cost of fuels that contribute most to climate change would have to increase.

Graphs showing how many people think lifestyles need to change, and how many people think energy costs will have to increase

The only exceptions were Italy and Russia, where significant numbers of people believed that increases in the price of energy would not be needed.

The pollsters suggested that high energy costs in both countries could have put people off the idea of increasing prices even further.

Attitudes to rising energy costs in Asia and Africa were more varied.

Large majorities in China said higher energy costs were necessary - although the BBC's Dan Griffiths, in Beijing, pointed out that people interviewed over the telephone were unlikely to contradict official policy.

In South Korea and India, the majorities in favour of higher prices were much smaller.

And in Nigeria, 52% of the respondents said they did not think higher fuel costs would be necessary to combat global warming.

Green China?

Opinions were divided on proposals to increase taxes on fossil fuels.


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Worldwide, 50% are in favour and 44% are opposed.

The Chinese are the most enthusiastic when it comes to energy taxes - 85% of those polled saying they were in favour, 24 percentage points more than in the next most-supportive countries.

In the rest of the world, narrow majorities - and sometimes minorities - favoured higher energy taxes.

However, when people opposed to energy taxes were asked whether their opinion would change if the revenue from the taxes were used to increase energy efficiency or develop cleaner fuel, large majorities in every country were in favour of higher taxes.

And when those opposed to higher taxes were asked whether they would change their minds if other taxes were reduced in order to keep their total tax burden the same, the survey again discovered large majorities in every country in favoured of higher green taxes.

"This poll clearly shows that people are much more ready to endure their share of the burden than most politicians grant," said Doug Miller, director of Globescan, the polling company that conducted the survey on behalf of the BBC.

Globescan interviewed 22,182 people in the UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States.

Interviews were conducted face-to-face or by telephone between 29 May 29 and 26 July 2007.

Graph showing support for lifestyle change broken down by country

Graph showing support for energy taxes broken down by country

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Greenland sees bloom in agriculture and collapse of ice caps

Ilulissat icefjord

By James Painter
BBC News, southern Greenland

Top scientist Professor Minik Rosing was stunned to hear the news from his native Greenland a few days ago.

The main weekly newspaper, Sermitsiaq, was highlighting a quarrel between shop owners and farmers about the price of potatoes.

"The price of potatoes was a headline," says Professor Rosing. "That would have been a hilarious joke in Greenland a few years ago."

Professor Rosing is one of his country's most famous sons, after discovering the earliest traces of life in rocks in West Greenland, that are more than 3,800 million years old. Like his fellow countrymen, he is deeply concerned about global warming, and particularly the effects of rapidly melting ice on the traditional life of hunters in the north of the country.

But higher temperatures are also bringing some benefits to the sub-Arctic south part of the island.

"I could buy broccoli in the shops for the first time this year," says Buuti Pedersen, a 52-year-old artist who was born and lives in the southern town of Qaqortoq. "And the potatoes are big, fresh and tasty - much better than the ones that come from Denmark."

Pace of change

Foreign Minister, Alequa Hammond
I come from a hunting family. Five of my uncles were hunters - now only two are
Aleqa Hammond, Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs.
Potatoes have been grown in southern Greenland for several years, but because of global warming they can be planted earlier, which means better yields. Local farmers are now selling a surplus to the rest of the country.

"There's been an explosion of potatoes," says Lene Holm, a member of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, which is overseeing a project studying how climate change is affecting local communities.

"There are also many more flowers, like the Alaska Lupin. You can see more green further up the mountains as the glaciers retreat. People are ringing up the national radio station about birds they had never seen here before."

Lene Holm is worried, though, about the sheer pace of the changes, which have happened in the past five to 10 years. Local people, she says, are very confused about the weather. Their perception is that winds are unpredictable; the ocean is warmer and its currents more variable, while the sea ice conditions are changing rapidly.

Ice melt

Preliminary results suggest that Greenland's ice cover has shrunk to a record low this summer. Dr Bob Corell, chairman of the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment, told a symposium of scientists and religious leaders in Greenland, which finished this week, that the acceleration of the Arctic ice melt was now "massive".

Greenland (BBC)

Dr Corell has been monitoring one particular glacier near the western town of Ilulissat, which was probably the source of the iceberg which sunk the Titanic. It is now flowing into the sea at a rate of 15 km per year - about four times faster than 10 years ago.

He is predicting that the best bet for the year in which the Arctic will be totally free of summer ice is now 2040, "give or take a decade". Not so long ago, scientists were projecting the end of the century.

The government of Greenland is worried about the human impact of the ice melt.

"There is sea ice for two to three months less every year," says Aleqa Hammond, Minister for Finance and Foreign Affairs. "For the communities in the north who live solely off hunting and fishing, it's like your boss taking away your pay for a couple of months without giving you notice."

Ms Hammond reckons that the number of Greenlanders living only off hunting could have dropped by as much as 6,000 in the past 10 years, from 8,000 to only 2,000 now. That's a significant social change in a country with a population of around 56,000. "I come from a hunting family," she says. "Five of my uncles were hunters. Now only two are."

'Political independence'

While Ms Hammond is very concerned about how quickly northern communities will have to adapt to climate change, she is also optimistic about the positive developments it could bring. She points to the greater volumes of halibut being caught off the west coast due to warmer sea temperatures, and the return of cod to some areas.

In addition to achieving more self-sufficiency in food products, she wants to develop hydroelectric power, oil and gas exploration, and the mining of Greenland's rich mineral deposits. All of this could become technically easier as the ice melts.

Greenland has signed a memorandum of understanding with the US company Alcoa to build a huge aluminium smelter using the country's plentiful water reserves.

"All of this can help us to reduce our economic dependence on Denmark," says Ms Hammond, "and could eventually lead to political independence."

Denmark currently gives about US$600m a year to Greenland, equivalent to about half its budget. Since 1979 Greenland has had home rule, but not full independence.

So will Greenland be a net beneficiary or a loser from climate change? On the one hand, it could lose a proud Inuit heritage of dog sleds and whale hunting, walruses, seals and polar bears. But on the other it may gain economically.

"You are not really comparing like with like," says Professor Rosing. "Loss of cultural identity and economic benefits are two different categories. You can't quantify the loss of our traditions. The real problem is that we are having to adapt so quickly."

Ships' CO2 'twice that of planes'

Tanker in Singapore
Some 90,000 ships ply the world's oceans
Matt McGrath
BBC News

Global emissions of carbon dioxide from shipping are twice the level of aviation, one of the maritime industry's key bodies has said.

A report prepared by Intertanko, which represents the majority of the world's tanker operators, says emissions have risen sharply in the past six years.

Previous International Maritime Organisation estimates suggested levels were comparable with those of planes.

Some 90,000 ships from tankers to small freighters ply the world's oceans.

Clampdown considered

Intertanko says its figures are the most realistic estimation of the current levels of CO2 from ships.

Its estimate suggests that the world's shipping uses between 350 and 410 million tonnes of fuel each year, which equates to up to 1.2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Intertanko says that growth in global trade coupled with ships burning more fuel to deliver freight faster has contributed significantly to the increase.

Dragos Routa, the technical director of Intertanko, told the BBC the figures were a work in progress but the levels of emissions had risen sharply.

While there are few accurate measures and even fewer restrictions on the amounts of carbon dioxide that ships can emit at present, governments in many parts of the world are considering a clampdown as part of their efforts to tackle global warming.

But Mr Routa argued that the much greater tonnage carried by each vessel, compared with aircraft, meant that shipping was still a much greener form of transporting freight around the globe.

Thousands perched on rooftops in Mexico floods

From: Alberto Fajardo and Luis Manuel Lopez, Reuters

VILLAHERMOSA, Mexico (Reuters) - Thousands of people perched on roofs in southern Mexico on Saturday, desperate to be evacuated from flooding caused by heavy rains that has left most of Tabasco state under water and 800,000 people homeless.

Many were set to spend another night on their rooftops, with tens of thousands already crammed into emergency shelters struggling to provide enough hot meals and dry beds.

One group stranded on a roof held a banner reading: "Enough. There are children, pregnant women, sick women. Send the police."

"We need help," one woman told Reuters Television after being rescued by helicopter from the roof of a school in the swampy southern Gulf of Mexico state.

"There are a lot of people up there, there are pregnant women, children. They didn't want to leave their homes but there's now no other option. We've lost everything," she said.

Local navy commander Sergio Lara said 28,000 people had been evacuated as army and navy teams worked through Saturday to airlift people out or reach them by boat, despite problems with fog and rain and with flood victims trying to grab onto hovering helicopters.

"What can complicate things is the weather. (And) today a helicopter almost fell down because of the people desperate to reach provisions," said Jorge Camacho, a civil protection director from the northern state of Nuevo Leon.

Only one death has been reported in Tabasco so far. But in the largely impoverished southern state of Chiapas, local media said four people had died after rain-swollen rivers burst their banks, damaging 5,000 homes and 16 bridges.


In Tabasco, tempers ran short as people searched for family members and fought over dwindling food and drinking water supplies. A supermarket in the state capital Villahermosa was looted as many stores ran out of stocks.

With electricity and drinking water cut off in much of the state, and fixed-line and cellular telephone networks down, several thousand Tabascans fled on buses on Friday to the neighboring states of Veracruz and Campeche.

Authorities said on Saturday they had started restoring drinking water to parts of the state.

Tabasco Gov. Andres Granier, who opened up his government offices as a refuge, said river levels were going down slightly despite more rain overnight that left floodwaters moving swiftly.

People and livestock swam through streets in neck-high, murky brown water on Friday after floodwaters burst through sandbag barriers into Villahermosa, home to about half a million people.

The Grijalva River that winds through the city swelled over its banks earlier in the week after days of heavy rains that triggered some of the worst flooding the low-lying region has seen in half a century.

President Felipe Calderon called the situation critical as flood levels reached 19 feet in some areas, and food supplies were trucked in from across the country.

The storms also disrupted Mexico's oil shipments to the United States for most of the week, although state energy monopoly Pemex reported no impact on its oil wells in Tabasco.

Granier said more than 1 million people, about half of the state's population, were affected by the flooding. On Saturday he imposed a temporary ban on alcohol sales in parts of the state because of the disaster.

© Reuters2007All rights reserved


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