Saturday, January 5, 2008

California snowpack low, showing less water supply


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The snowpack in the Sierra Mountains of California is 60 percent of normal, but rain and snow expected in the next few days will raise that figure, the California Department of Water Resources said in its first snow survey of the season issued late Thursday.

Snow water is an important factor for determining the coming year's water supply for hydroelectric generation, as well as the reservoir level for the state and local water supply. California gets more than 17 percent of its power from hydroelectric generation, according to the California Energy Commission.

The CDWR's survey was conducted on Thursday.

Friday, stormy weather in northern California felled power lines and caused power outages affecting more than 100,000 customers.

That storm and others to follow it in the next several days will bring much-needed snowfall that will raise California's snowpack toward normal, said Arthur Hinojosa, chief of the CDWR's hydrology branch

At least five feet of snow are forecast to fall in northern California over the next several days in the higher elevations of the Sierra Mountains, CDWR said.

Sierra snow levels are expected to begin at 6,000 feet and drop to below 4,000 feet through the weekend with another weaker storm to arrive early next week, Hinojosa said.

"The pending storms should provide the state with a much needed helping of snow," said Hinojosa. "We hope to get close to the January average precipitation for the Northern Sierra over the next week."

This January should be an abundant contrast to January 2007 when extremely dry conditions led to a much smaller than normal snowpack.

"The surveys are particularly significant this year because last year's snowpack yielded only 30 percent of the normal water content," said the CDWR.

For now, the CDWR said, reservoirs are low, as shown by a 55 percent of normal reading at Lake Oroville, which has a capacity to hold 3.5 million acre feet of water.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; editing by Jim Marshall)

EU considers carbon tariff


By Gerard Wynn

LONDON (Reuters) - The European Commission is debating whether to push for a carbon tariff on imports from countries that do not tackle their greenhouse gas emissions, as part of climate change proposals due out this month.

Supporters of the measure say it would level the playing field for European companies facing tougher domestic emissions penalties. The new rules would be part of a raft of post-2012 proposals covering issues including national emissions targets and clean energy subsidies.

Unlike the European Union, neither China, India nor the United States have yet agreed to binding emissions reductions.

The idea of imposing some kind of tariff on goods imported from countries with less strict controls on greenhouse gases was first put forward by former French President Jacques Chirac.

But the plan has run into opposition from European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson who has said it would be hard to implement and could lead to trade disputes.

A preliminary draft, seen by Reuters, says companies importing goods into the 27-nation European Union from countries that do not similarly restrict greenhouse gas emissions would have to buy EU emissions permits.

A Commission official confirmed that the carbon charge issue was still under consideration, despite opposition.

"It's very much debated," the official said. "It's not solved yet."

The measure, which needs the backing of EU governments, would be equivalent to a carbon tariff, taxing imports based on the price of emissions permits in Europe and the amount of greenhouse gases produced in the manufacture of the goods outside the EU.


The European Union says it is a leader on climate change and is alone in pushing for tough, unilateral emissions-cutting targets, saying it will cut greenhouse gases by a fifth by 2020 versus 1990 levels.

France, other EU countries and energy-intensive industries in Europe, such as its steel sector, want to avoid further losses of competitiveness against producers in China and other emerging economies as well as rivals in the United States.

European companies will face tougher penalties from 2013 under the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme. Participants already have to buy emissions permits above a certain quota that they get for free, and the Commission will cut that quota from 2013.

The preliminary draft seen by Reuters said that from 2013 electricity generators would get for free half the permits that they receive now and other companies would get 90 percent.

German financial newspaper Handelsblatt reported on Friday that overall the European Commission would auction 60 percent of all emissions permits from 2013, compared with a maximum of 10 percent now and the rest given out free.

The final draft may yet be changed, the Commission official said. It is due to be discussed by senior officials over the next two weeks leading up to publication on January 23.

After that it is up to Slovenia, which holds the rotating EU presidency, to set a timetable for discussion by EU leaders.

Scientists warn the Sai Gon River is dying

Vietnam News, Vietnam
The Sai Gon River is being killed by waste water discharged from industrial zones and the pursuit of aquaculture. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Phan

HCM City — The Sai Gon River that provides water for HCM City’s almost 10 million people is dying.

Its killer is the waste water discharged from industrial zones and the pursuit of aquaculture, scientists at a seminar held to discuss the protection of the river agreed.

Many reports tabled at the HCM City meeting showed that high amounts of manganese, iron, ammonia, coliform and oil are the major pollutants.

A study by HCM City University of Technology Professor Nguyen Thi Van Ha showed the amount of manganese and iron in the river was higher than the norm of potable water.

The amount of manganese at the Tan Hiep pumping station from where water is supplied to the city, was measured at 0.2mg per litre, double that permissible.

Tan Hiep pumping station director Bui Thanh Giang said he was worried about the fall in water quality and the increase in the amount of ammonia since 2004.

"Previously, the amount rose and fell with the tide," he said.

But now it was always high.

"The quality of the river water has abnormally changed making it more difficult to treat," he said.

The indicator of dissolved oxygen, DO, in the river is lower than that required.

A study by the HCM City Environment Protection Department’s Dr Nguyen Dinh Tuan revealed that the DO ratio was just 2.8-4/7mg per litre compared with a norm of more than 6mg per litre.

The pollution in the Sai Gon River basin was the most serious, Dr Tuan said.

Binh Duong Natural Resources and Environment director Vo Thi Ngoc Hanh said the province’s 11 industrial zones discharged between 1,200 cu.m and 5,600cu.m of waste water into the river basin each day.

Another 45.000cu.m of waste water was discharged by other producers.

Toxic waste water from paper production totalled 7,700cu.m; weaving and dying – 4,200cu.m and rubber processing – 9,600cu.m every day.

The daily discharge from animal breading alone totalled 24,500cu.m.

Tay Ninh Province and HCM City have not yet published figures for the discharge of industrial waste water into the river.

The seminar was told that coliform, a bacteria normally found in the colons of humans and animals but with the potential to become a serious contaminant when found in food or water, and oil spill had become serious pollutants.

The amount of coliform caused by aqua culture was 220 times the norm.

Viet Nam’s regulations for potable water require that it be free of oil but oil pollution in the Sai Gon River is increasing at a rate of 0.023 to 0.090mg per litre.

Water and Environment Technology Institute director Dr Lam Minh Triet, said: "The pollution in Sai Gon River is not only threatening the clean water supply for the HCM City’s people but also the sustainable socio-economic development of HCM City, Tay Ninh and Binh Duong provinces."

HCM City, Tay Ninh and Binh Duong administrators signed an agreement to protect the Sai Gon River in November 2006.

But the three local governments had yet to act apart from installing three stations to test water quality.

Action pledged

However, the natural resources and environment departments of HCM City and Binh Duong and Tay Ninh provinces have pledged to strictly control the waste and water discharged into the river.

HCM City Natural Resources and Environment Department deputy director Nguyen Van Phuoc says the three administrations have studied the sources of the waste and the activities that create the waste substances.

The HCM City department has imposed strict sanctions to production units whose activities pollute the river, he says.

But the pollution will not fall if waste water discharged in Binh Duong and Tay Ninh Provinces is not stopped.

Measures to protect the water quality of the Sai Gon River are part of a two-year plan introduced last month.

The plan will begin with action to eliminate pollution from the part of the river that is used to supply the Tan Hiep pumping station by March.

Plans for the protection and management of the water in the Sai Gon River were now necessary, Dr Triet said.

State management agencies and local governments should invest properly in ensuring its survival.

"If there’s no action, the Sai Gon River will become a dead river," he warned.

The 107km-long Sai Gon River crosses Tay Ninh Province and Binh Duong Provinces and flows through HCM City.

It provides water for daily life; irrigation, aqua culture, industry, transport and tourism. — VNS

Friday, January 4, 2008

Burning biofuels may be worse than coal and oil, say experts

Guardian, UK

Scientists point to cost in biodiversity and farmland
Razing tropical forests 'will increase carbon'

Using biofuels made from corn, sugar cane and soy could have a greater environmental impact than burning fossil fuels, according to experts. Although the fuels themselves emit fewer greenhouse gases, they all have higher costs in terms of biodiversity loss and destruction of farmland.

The problems of climate change and the rising cost of oil have led to a race to develop environmentally-friendly biofuels, such as palm oil or ethanol derived from corn and sugar cane. The EU has proposed that 10% of all fuel used in transport should come from biofuels by 2020 and the emerging global market is expected to be worth billions of dollars a year.

But the new fuels have attracted controversy. "Regardless of how effective sugar cane is for producing ethanol, its benefits quickly diminish if carbon-rich tropical forests are being razed to make the sugar cane fields, thereby causing vast greenhouse-gas emission increases," Jörn Scharlemann and William Laurance, of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, write in Science today.

"Such comparisons become even more lopsided if the full environmental benefits of tropical forests - for example, for biodiversity conservation, hydrological functioning, and soil protection - are included."

Efforts to work out which crops are most environmentally friendly have, until now, focused only on the amount of greenhouse gases a fuel emits when it is burned. Scharlemann and Laurance highlighted a more comprehensive method, developed by Rainer Zah of the Empa Research Institute in Switzerland, that can take total environmental impacts - such as loss of forests and farmland and effects on biodiversity - into account.

In a study of 26 biofuels the Swiss method showed that 21 fuels reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 30% compared with gasoline when burned. But almost half of the biofuels, a total of 12, had greater total environmental impacts than fossil fuels. These included economically-significant fuels such as US corn ethanol, Brazilian sugar cane ethanol and soy diesel, and Malaysian palm-oil diesel. Biofuels that fared best were those produced from waste products such as recycled cooking oil, as well as ethanol from grass or wood.

Scharlemann and Laurance also pointed to "perverse" government initiatives that had resulted in unintended environmental impacts. In the US, for example, farmers have been offered incentives to shift from growing soy to growing corn for biofuels. "This is helping to drive up global soy prices, which in turn amplifies economic incentives to destroy Amazonian forests and Brazilian tropical savannas for soy production."

They added: "The findings highlight the enormous differences in costs and benefits among different biofuels. There is a clear need to consider more than just energy and greenhouse gas emissions when evaluating different biofuels and to pursue new biofuel crops and technologies."

Andy Tait, campaign manager at Greenpeace, said: "We're already bought into mandatory targets for the use of biofuels with very little thought of what the environmental impacts will be. This study further confirms that there are serious risks associated with first generation biofuels, particularly from corn, soya and palm oil."

He said that the biofuel technology had been oversold by industry and politicians. "It's clear that what government and industry are trying to do is find a neat, drop-in solution that allows people to continue business as usual.

"If you're looking at the emissions from the transport sector, the first thing you need to look at is fuel efficiency and massively increasing it. That needs to come before you even get to the point of discussing which biofuels might be good or bad."

Australia: This drought may never break

Sidney Morning Herald, Australia
Richard Macey

IT MAY be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent, one of the nation's most senior weather experts warned yesterday.

"Perhaps we should call it our new climate," said the Bureau of Meteorology's head of climate analysis, David Jones.

He was speaking after the release of statistics showing that last year was the hottest on record in NSW, Victoria, South Australia and the ACT.

NSW's mean temperature was 1.13 degrees above average. "That is a very substantial anomaly," Dr Jones said. "It's equivalent to moving NSW 150 kilometres closer to the equator."

It was the 11th year in a row NSW and the Murray-Darling Basin had experienced above normal temperatures. Sydney's nights were its warmest since records were first kept 149 years ago.

"There is absolutely no debate that Australia is warming," said Dr Jones. "It is very easy to see … it is happening before our eyes."

The only uncertainty now was whether the changing pattern was "85 per cent, 95 per cent or 100 per cent the result of the enhanced greenhouse effect".

"There is a debate in the climate community, after … close to 12 years of drought, whether this is something permanent. Certainly, in terms of temperature, that seems to be our reality, and that there is no turning back.

"Last year climate change became very evident in south-eastern Australia, with South Australia, NSW, Victoria, the ACT and the Murray-Darling Basin all setting temperature records by a very large margin," he said.

Some areas were "getting closer to 1.5 to 2 degrees above what we were seeing during early parts of the 20th century."

Australia as a whole had a mean temperature 0.67 degrees above average last year, making it the nation's sixth-warmest year.

NSW and the Murray-Darling Basin experienced their seventh consecutive year of below-average rain. Dr Jones said the statewide rain statistics would have looked even worse had it not been for heavy falls along the coast.

Sydney had its wettest year since 1998, receiving 1499 millimetres, well above the long-term average of 1215. While much of it was coastal, rain that did fall across the state fell at the wrong time for farmers, soaked into drought-parched soils or evaporated during scorching days.#

Widespread falls across NSW in June were followed by very dry spells in August, September and October.

"Very good rainfall in December across south-eastern Australia has been followed, since about Boxing Day, by quite extreme heat in Victoria, southern NSW and most of southern Western Australia," Dr Jones said.

Sydney had its stormiest year since 1963, with 33 thunderstorms, compared with the historic average of 28.

The highest temperature recorded in NSW last year was 46 degrees, at Ivanhoe on January 11. Charlotte Pass shivered through the state's coldest night when the mercury dipped to minus 11 on July 23.

Meanwhile, the weather bureau has warned that Sydney beaches may be closed again today and tomorrow, with heavy seas likely to pound the NSW coast.

The bureau's Rob Webb said a large low pressure system off south-east Queensland should produce waves up to four metres high in deep water.

"As they get closer to the shore they will become quite dangerous," he said.

First-ever study to link increased mortality specifically to carbon dioxide emissions

From: Stanford University


A Stanford scientist has spelled out for the first time the direct links between increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increases in human mortality, using a state-of-the-art computer model of the atmosphere that incorporates scores of physical and chemical environmental processes. The new findings, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters, come to light just after the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent ruling against states setting specific emission standards for this greenhouse gas based in part on the lack of data showing the link between carbon dioxide emissions and their health effects.

While it has long been known that carbon dioxide emissions contribute to climate change, the new study details how for each increase of one degree Celsius caused by carbon dioxide, the resulting air pollution would lead annually to about a thousand additional deaths and many more cases of respiratory illness and asthma in the United States, according to the paper by Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford. Worldwide, upward of 20,000 air-pollution-related deaths per year per degree Celsius may be due to this greenhouse gas.

“This is a cause and effect relationship, not just a correlation,” said Jacobson of his study, which on Dec. 24 was accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. “The study is the first specifically to isolate carbon dioxide’s effect from that of other global-warming agents and to find quantitatively that chemical and meteorological changes due to carbon dioxide itself increase mortality due to increased ozone, particles and carcinogens in the air.”

Jacobson said that the research has particular implications for California. This study finds that the effects of carbon dioxide’s warming are most significant where the pollution is already severe. Given that California is home to six of the 10 U.S. cities with the worst air quality, the state is likely to bear an increasingly disproportionate burden of death if no new restrictions are placed on carbon dioxide emissions.

On Dec. 19, the Environmental Protection Agency denied California and 16 other states a waiver that would have allowed the states to set their own emission standards for carbon dioxide, which are not currently regulated. The EPA denied the waiver partly on the grounds that no special circumstances existed to warrant an exception for the states.

Stephen L. Johnson, the EPA administrator, was widely quoted as saying that California’s petition was denied because the state had failed to prove the “extraordinary and compelling conditions” required to qualify for a waiver. While previous published research has focused on the global effect on pollution—but not health—of all the greenhouse gases combined, the EPA noted that, under the Clean Air Act, it has to be shown that there is a reasonable anticipation of a specific pollutant endangering public health in the United States for the agency to regulate that pollutant.

Jacobson’s paper offers concrete evidence that California is facing a particularly dire situation if carbon dioxide emissions increase. “With six of the 10 most polluted cities in the nation being in California, that alone creates a special circumstance for the state,” he said, explaining that the health-related effects of carbon dioxide emissions are most pronounced in areas that already have significant pollution. As such, increased warming due to carbon dioxide will worsen people’s health in those cities at a much faster clip than elsewhere in the nation.

According to Jacobson, more than 30 percent of the 1,000 excess deaths (mean death rate value) due to each degree Celsius increase caused by carbon dioxide occurred in California, which has a population of about 12 percent of the United States. This indicates a much higher effect of carbon dioxide-induced warming on California health than that of the nation as a whole.

Jacobson added that much of the population of the United States already has been directly affected by climate change through the air they have inhaled over the last few decades and that, of course, the health effects would grow worse if temperatures continue to rise.

Jacobson’s work stands apart from previous research in that it uses a computer model of the atmosphere that takes into account many feedbacks between climate change and air pollution not considered in previous studies. Developed by Jacobson over the last 18 years, it is considered by many to be the most complex and complete atmospheric model worldwide. It incorporates principles of gas and particle emissions and transport, gas chemistry, particle production and evolution, ocean processes, soil processes, and the atmospheric effects of rain, winds, sunlight, heat and clouds, among other factors.

For this study, Jacobson used the computer model to determine the amounts of ozone and airborne particles that result from temperature increases, caused by increases in carbon dioxide emissions. Ozone causes and worsens respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, emphysema and asthma, and many published studies have associated increased ozone with higher mortality. “[Ozone] is a very corrosive gas, it erodes rubber and statues,” Jacobson said. “It cracks tires. So you can imagine what it does to your lungs in high enough concentrations.” Particles are responsible for cardiovascular and respiratory illness and asthma.

Jacobson arrived at his results of the impact of carbon dioxide globally and, at higher resolution, over the United States by modeling the changes that would occur when all current human and natural gas and particle emissions were considered versus considering all such emissions except human-emitted carbon dioxide.

Jacobson simultaneously calculated the effects of increasing temperatures on pollution. He observed two important effects:

  • Higher temperatures due to carbon dioxide increased the chemical rate of ozone production in urban areas
  • Increased water vapor due to carbon dioxide-induced higher temperatures boosted chemical ozone production even more in urban areas.

Interestingly, neither effect was so important under the low pollution conditions typical of rural regions, though other factors, such as higher organic gas emissions from vegetation, affected ozone in low-pollution areas. Higher emissions of organic gases also increased the quantity of particles in the air, as organic gases can chemically react to form particles.

And in general, where there was an increase in water vapor, particles that were present became more deadly, as they swelled from absorption of water. “That added moisture allows other gases to dissolve in the particles—certain acid gases, like nitric acid, sulfuric acid and hydrochloric acid,” Jacobson said. That increases the toxicity of the particles, which are already a harmful component of air pollution.

Jacobson also found that air temperatures rose more rapidly due to carbon dioxide than did ground temperatures, changing the vertical temperature profile, which decreased pollution dispersion, thereby concentrating particles near where they formed.

In the final stage of the study, Jacobson used the computer model to factor in the spatially varying population of the United States with the health effects that have been demonstrated to be associated with the aforementioned pollutants.

“The simulations accounted for the changes in ozone and particles through chemistry, transport, clouds, emissions and other processes that affect pollution,” Jacobson said. “Carbon dioxide definitely caused these changes, because that was the only input that was varied.”

“Ultimately, you inhale a greater abundance of deleterious chemicals due to carbon dioxide and the climate change associated with it, and the link appears quite solid,” he said. “The logical next step is to reduce carbon dioxide: That would reduce its warming effect and improve the health of people in the U.S. and around the world who are currently suffering from air pollution health problems associated with it.”

2008 to be in top 10 warmest years say forecasters


By Jeremy Lovell

LONDON (Reuters) - 2008 will be slightly cooler than recent years globally but will still be among the top 10 warmest years on record since 1850 and should not be seen as a sign global warming was on the wane, British forecasters said.

The Met Office and experts at the University of East Anglia on Thursday said global average temperatures this year would be 0.37 of a degree Celsius above the long-term 1961-1990 average of 14 degrees and be the coolest since 2000.

They said the forecast took into account the annual Pacific Ocean La Nina weather phenomenon which was expected to be particularly strong this year and which would limit the warming trend.

It also took account of rising atmospheric concentrations of so-called greenhouse gases, solar variations and natural changes in the ocean currents.

"The fact that 2008 is forecast to be cooler than any of the last seven years does not mean that global warming has gone away," said Phil Jones, director of climate research at UEA.

"What matters is the underlying rate of warming - the period 2001-2007 with an average of 0.44 degree C above the 1961-90 average was 0.21 degree C warmer than corresponding values for the period 1991-2000."

La Nina and its opposite El Nino ocean-atmosphere phenomenon have strong influences on global temperatures. La Nina reduces the sea surface temperature by around 0.5 degrees Celsius while El Nino has the opposite effect.

"Phenomena such as El Nino and La Nina have a significant influence on global surface temperature and the current strong La Nina will act to limit temperatures in 2008," said Chris Folland from the Met Office Hadley Centre.

"However mean temperature is still expected to be significantly warmer than in 2000, when a similar strength La Nina pegged temperatures to 0.24 degree C above the 1961-90 average. Sharply renewed warming is likely once La Nina declines," he added.

The current La Nina is now the strongest since 1999-2000. The lag between La Nina and the full global surface temperature response means that the cooling effect is expected to be a little greater in 2008 than it was during 2007.

The World Meteorological Organisation said last month there were indications that the 10 years from 1998 to 2007 were the hottest decade on record.

The Met Office Hadley Centre said the top 11 warmest years have all occurred in the last 13.

(Editing by Matthew Jones)

California to get walloped by snow, wind, rain

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: 10 feet of snow possible in California mountains this weekend
  • NEW: Wind gusts could reach 145 mph, forecasters say
  • NEW: Kern County could get more rain than all of 2007
  • Flash-flood watches in effect in areas stripped by fires

(CNN) -- More than 10 feet of snow could fall on California mountains by Sunday and winds could reach the strength of an extremely strong hurricane as powerful winter storms move through the state.


Workers fill sandbags in Malibu, California, Thursday as residents prepare for potential mudslides.

"Travel is not advised in the mountain areas this weekend. It could be a life-threatening situation for you," CNN meteorologist Jacqui Jeras said Friday.

"The combination of heavy snow and powerful winds will likely cause frequent whiteout conditions at the highest elevations," National Weather Service forecasters said. "Travel over the higher passes will be very difficult, if not impossible, at times between Friday evening and Saturday morning."

Winds in the mountains could gust to 145 mph, forecasters said, the strength of a Category 4 hurricane. A Category 4 can inflict extreme damage.

In Mammoth Lakes in the eastern Sierra Nevada, locals stocked up on supplies, waiting more than an hour in line at the grocery store, resident Barbara Sholle told The Associated Press.

Even in lower elevations, gusts could reach 60 mph, the National Weather Service said. "Be alert for flying debris," the service warned. "Secure all doors and windows and stay indoors if possible."

At 3:30 a.m. PT Friday, wind gusts of 44 mph were recorded at Redding in the northern part of the state.

Up to 10 inches of precipitation was forecast for lower elevations.

Sacramento could see as much as 3 inches of rain Friday, CNN affiliate KCRA reported.

In Kern County, forecasters said that more rain could fall this weekend than fell in all of 2007, the county's driest year since 1961, CNN affiliate KERO reported.

In Southern California, forecasters warned it could be the most significant rainfall since January 2005. Flash-flood watches were in effect around Los Angeles and San Diego, and the possibility of mudslides loomed for hillsides scorched bare by wildfires last year.

Authorities advised homeowners in those areas to have plenty of sandbags on hand and watch for signs of flooding, The AP reported.

In Orange County, the Conservation Corps on Thursday was placing gravel-filled bags along an area burned last fall, according to AP.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered the state Office of Emergency Services to prepare for the bad weather.

"The state is expecting a powerful series of storms that could produce blizzard conditions in the higher elevations of the Sierra, with wind gusts of more than 100 mph and 8 to 10 feet of snow forecast at above 7,000 feet," a news release from Schwarzenegger's office said.

The weather disrupted air traffic Thursday. Flights into San Francisco were delayed more than two hours Thursday, affecting air traffic throughout the country, the Federal Aviation Administration said. Shorter delays were reported in Los Angeles.

In addition to the wind, rain and snow, the storm will bring high surf and coastal flooding, forecasters said. Ocean tides could swell up to 30 feet, prompting the Coast Guard to warn boaters not to venture out of port, AP reported. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Lakotah Sioux Declare Sovereignty From U.S.

The Lakota Sioux Indians have withdrawn from all treaties with the United States and declared their independence. A delegation from the tribe delivered the news to the State Department last week. Longtime Indian rights activist Russell Means said: “We are no longer citizens of the United States of America and all those who live in the five-state area that encompasses our country are free to join us.” Lakota country comprises portions of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. The Lakota said the decision was necessary in the face of what they described as colonial apartheid conditions. The life expectancy for Lakota men is less than 44 years; 97 percent of the Lakota people live below the poverty line. The Lakota also said the United States never honored many treaties signed dating back to the mid 19th century.

Lakota Withdrawal Letter, December 17, 2007

Lakotah, formally and unilaterally withdraws from all agreements and treaties imposed by the United States Government on the Lakotah People.

Lakotah, and the population therein, have waited for at least 155 years for the United States of America to adhere to the provisions of the above referenced treaties. The continuing violations of these treaties’ terms have resulted in the near annihilation of our people physically, spiritually, and culturally.

Lakotah Unilateral Withdrawal from All Agreements and Treaties with the United States of America

We as the freedom loving Lakotah People are the predecessor sovereign of Dakota Territory as evidenced by the Treaties with the
United States Government, including, but not limited to, the Treaty of 1851 and the Treaty of 1868 at Fort Laramie.

Lakotah, formally and unilaterally withdraws from all agreements and treaties imposed by the United States Government on the Lakotah People.

Lakotah, and the population therein, have waited for at least 155 years for the United States of America to adhere to the provisions of the above referenced treaties. The continuing violations of these treaties’ terms have resulted in the near annihilation of our people physically, spiritually, and culturally.

Lakotah rejects United States Termination By Appropriation policy from 1871 to the present.

In addition, the evidence of gross violations of the above referenced treaties are listed herein.

Lakotah encourages the United States of America, through its Government ,to enter into dialogue with Lakotah regarding the boundaries, the land and the resources therein. Please contact the Lakotah Interests Section, Naomi Archer, at (828) 230-1404 or

Should the United States and its subordinate governments choose not to act in good faith concerning the rebirth of our nation, we hereby advise the United States Government that Lakotah will begin to administer liens against real estate transactions within the five state area of Lakotah.
Lakotah, through its government, appointed the following representatives to withdraw from all the treaties with the United States of America based on the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties entered into force in 1980 and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples 2007:

Teghiya Kte
Heretofore known as Gary Rowlan

Canupa Gluha Mani
Heretofore known as Duane Martin Sr.

Oyate Wacinyapin
Heretofore know as Russell Means

Mni yuha Najin Win
Heretofore known as Phyllis Young



Political and Diplomatic Relations with the United States of America
The first official contacts between Lakotah and the government of the United States of America began in earnest after the United States conducted a commercial transaction with France, commonly known as the Louisiana Purchase, in 1803. Prior to that time, Lakotah exercised complete and unfettered freedom and independence in their territory. According to the fantasy of United States’ history, the Louisiana Purchase was a purported sale by France to the United States of 530 million acres (2.1 million for $15 million. Part of this sale included the territory of Lakotah who, of course never had knowledge of, nor gave consent to, the sale of their national territory.

The first treaty between the U.S. and any segment of Lakotah occurred in 1805, , and various other treaties of “peace and friendship,” between Lakotah and the U.S. As citizens of the U.S. began to invade and encroach on the territory of Lakotah in increasing numbers, tensions and violence erupted. To prevent full-scale war, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was requested by the U.S., to allow a transportation route through Lakotah territory. The treaty did not impair the sovereignty or the independence of Lakotah. In fact, the treaty expressly recognized Lakotah as an independent nation, and the treaty respected “all national business” of Lakotah.

After repeated violations by the United States of the 1851 Treaty, warfare broke out between Lakotah and the U.S. Lakotah defeated the U.S. in the so-called “Red Cloud War,” leading to the U.S. to call for another treaty conference at Fort Laramie. The second treaty agreed for the U.S. to abandon the Bozeman Road, and the accompanying military forts that had been built along it, and promised to keep U.S. troops and settlers out of Lakotah territory.

Almost immediately, the U.S. began violating terms of the treaty, allowing railroad and mining interests to trespass and steal Lakotah resources and territory. In 1874, the infamous U.S. military commander, George Custer, led an invasion of the most sacred part of Lakotah territory, the Paha Sapa (Black Hills), prompting an invasion of gold seekers, and provoking another war between the U.S. and Lakotah. As a result of the war, Lakotah territory was illegally occupied by the U.S., and billions of dollars of natural resources have been stolen from the occupied territories of Lakotah.

The United States has engaged in multiple military, legal and political strategies for more than a century to deny Lakotah our right to freedom and self-determination. In 1876-77, in violations of the treaties that it had signed with Lakotah, the U.S. engaged in a sell-or-starve policy to coerce Lakotah to sell our national homeland. Lakotah refused, and has consistently refused to the present time.

In 1871, the U.S. decided no longer to enter into treaties with indigenous nations, but the U.S. treaty-ending legislation made explicit that the new policy of the United States would in no way impair or limit those treaties already in force between indigenous nations and the U.S. Lakotah have consistently relied on the sanctity of the treaty between the U.S. and Lakotah.

As mentioned above, the United States has consistently violated the treaties between Lakotah and the U.S., resulting in the loss of life, resources, and territory for Lakotah. Although the United States was willing to take the benefit of its bargain (i.e., territory and natural resources) in signing treaties with Lakotah, it was almost immediately unwilling to respect the mutual bargain to the Lakotah. The U.S. began to use U.S. law and policy to attempt to diminish the political, economic and cultural freedom of Lakotah.

After signing the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the U.S. allowed its military, and its civilian citizens to invade Lakotah territory to steal gold, silver and other natural resources. The U.S. unilaterally violated the 1868 Treaty throughout the 1870s and 1880s by coercing alterations in the Treaty onto Lakotah, without the required 2/3 agreement of Lakotah, as required in the Treaty.

Although the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the ongoing freedom and independence of Lakotah in the landmark case of Ex Parte Crow Dog (1883), two years later, the U.S. Congress attempted to steal Lakotah independence through the passage of the Major Crimes Act, that unilaterally extended U.S. criminal jurisdiction into Lakotah territory.
These actions were followed by more arrogant actions of the United States, culminating in the shocking Supreme Court Case of Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1903). Although Lone Wolf involved the Kiowa and Comanche Nations in what is now the State of Oklahoma, its impact adversely affected Lakotah. In Lone Wolf, the United States not only said that it could violate, change or abrogate treaties with Indian nations unilaterally, but it also said that the U.S. Congress possesses plenary (absolute) power to legislate in any way in indigenous affairs without the consent or consideration of indigenous nations.

By extension, Lone Wolf has been used to violate hundreds of treaties between the U.S. and indigenous peoples, including Lakotah. Through the operation of Lone Wolf, the U.S. stole the sacred Black Hills, allowed the mining of billions of dollars of gold from them, admitted that the Black Hills were taken in violation of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, and then offered to compensate Lakotah at 1874 land values. Lakotah have, to this day, rejected the offer of payment, and continue to insist on the return of the Paha Sapa (Black Hills).

An overview of violations follows:

• Homestead Acts
• Allotment Acts
• Citizenship Act forcing United States citizenship upon all
American Indians
• Indian Reorganization Act a.k.a. Howard Wheeler Act (the
first Apartheid Act)
• Forced relocation during the decades of the 1950's over the
• Supreme Court decision disallowing our religions.
• Even though we are citizens of the United States of America,
we are denied protections of the United States Constitution
while living on Indian reservations, etcetera, etcetera,

The operation of the United States in the nefarious ways outlined above are a violation, not only of the sovereignty and independence of Lakotah, not only of the solemn treaty signed between the U.S. and Lakotah, but it is a violation of the fundamental law of the United States itself. Article Six of the United States Constitution explicitly states that treaties signed by the United States are the supreme law of the land, and must be respected by every court and by every lawmaker, as such.


Referenced Documents:

I. Treaties of Fort Laramie, 1851 and 1868 Full text of these treaties can be found at

II. Article VI of United States Constitution

Article. VI. - Debts, Supremacy, Oaths

All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation. This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

III. Vienna Convention on Treaties 1969; specifically Article 49, Article 60 Parts I and II Article 49- Fraud

If a State has been induced to conclude a treaty by the fraudulent conduct govern questions not regulated by the provisions of the present

Have agreed as follows:


Article 1

Scope of the present Convention

The present Convention applies to treaties between States.

Article 2 Use of terms

1. For the purposes of the present Convention:

(a) 'treaty' means an international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation;

(b) 'ratification', 'acceptance', 'approval' and 'accession' mean in each case the international act so named whereby a State establishes on the international plane its consent to be bound by a treaty;

(c) 'full powers' means a document emanating from the competent authority of a State designating a person or persons
to represent the State for negotiating, adopting or authenticating the text of a treaty, for expressing the consent of the State to be bound by a treaty, or for accomplishing any other act with respect to a treaty;

(d) 'reservation' means a unilateral statement, however phrased or named, made by a State, when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty, whereby it purports to exclude or to modify the legal effect of certain provisions of the treaty in their application

to that State;

(e) 'negotiating State' means a State which took part in the drawing up and adoption of the text of the treaty;

(f) 'contracting State' means a State which has consented to be bound by the treaty, whether or not the treaty has entered into force;

(g) 'party' means a State which has consented to be bound by the treaty and for which the treaty is in force;

(h) 'third State' means a State not a party to the treaty;

(i) 'international organization' means an intergovernmental organization.

Article 60

Termination or suspension of the operation of a treaty as a consequence of its breach

1. A material breach of a bilateral treaty by one of the parties entitles the other to invoke the breach as a ground for terminating the treaty or suspending its operation in whole or in part.

2. A material breach of a multilateral treaty by one of the parties entitles:

(a) the other parties by unanimous agreement to suspend the operation of the treaty in whole or in part or to terminate it either:

(i) in the relations between themselves and the defaulting State, or

(ii) as between all the parties;

(b) a party specially affected by the breach to invoke it as a ground for suspending the operation of the treaty in whole or in part in the relations between itself and the defaulting State;

(c) any party other than the defaulting State to invoke the breach as a ground for suspending the operation of the treaty in whole or in part with respect to itself if the treaty is of such a character that a material breach of its provisions by one party radically changes the position of every party with respect to the further performance of
its obligations under the treaty.

3. A material breach of a treaty, for the purposes of this article, consists in:

(a) a repudiation of the treaty not sanctioned by the present Convention;


(b) the violation of a provision essential to the accomplishment of the object or purpose of the treaty.

4. The foregoing paragraphs are without prejudice to any provision in the treaty applicable in the event of a breach.

5. Paragraphs 1 to 3 do not apply to provisions relating to the protection of the human person contained in treaties of a humanitarian character, in particular to provisions prohibiting any form of reprisals against persons protected by such treaties.

IV. United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights 2007; specifically Article 37

Article 37

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honor and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

2. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as diminishing or eliminating the rights of indigenous peoples contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

V. Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1903)

Full text of the decision can be found at: 87_553.htm

Note: Lakotah precludes all litigation and political intrusions not relevant to Lakotah.

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Climate Change Affects Top Predators in Ocean Ecosystems

Climate Change Affects Top Predators in Ocean Ecosystems


HONOLULU, HI — Scientists from the University of Hawaii joined more than 150 colleagues at the First Climate Impacts on Oceanic Top Predators (CLIOTOP) Symposium, hosted by the Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas and the Centro de Investigaciones Biologicas del Noroeste, December 3-7, 2007, at La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

The symposium, which was attended by scientists from 25 different countries, marks the start of the 10-year project to investigate the impact of climate change on top predators in the world's oceans. Predators include such economically important fish as tunas, as well as billfish, sharks, whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sea birds. All of these species are affected by such changes in climate as variability in winds, ocean currents, air and sea temperatures, and rainfall levels. El Nino La Nina changes are the most well known and significant aspect of year-to-year climate variability, but climate change also occurs over decades and centuries.

The University of Hawaii's Pelagic Fisheries Research Program (PFRP) played an active role in the symposium. Dr John Sibert, manager of the PFRP and a member of the CLIOTOP Steering Committee, helped organize the symposium, and the PFRP sponsored student participation. PFRP-funded research reported at the symposium addresses several aspects of how climate change will affect top predators, for example, how potential changes in the base of the oceanic food web will affect the feeding of top predators, the migration patterns of hatchling sea turtles, and the size of tuna populations.

"Oceanic top predators respond to changes in their environment by changing their behavior and shifting their distribution. As a result, ocean ecosystems may experience changes in the relative abundance of different species, as well as changes in overall productivity," said Dr Sibert. "This can have major economic impacts and may determine the food security of many coastal communities in the developing countries of the world."

CLIOTOP provides a framework for scientists to carry out collaborative and comparative research across different oceans. Such comparative research will deepen our understanding of the ecosystem impacts of climate change. The CLIOTOP Project has established five working groups to investigate a variety of scientific topics related to the general them of how climate change impacts top predators. One working group is examining how climate change is likely to affect ocean governance.

In discussing preliminary results of one PFRP-sponsored research project, Dr. Sibert stated that "global warming may lead to severe contraction of favorable reproductive zones for some species of tunas that will have larger effects than fisheries on tuna stocks by the end of the twenty-first century."

Background information on the CLIOTOP Project, including its Science Plan, is available online.

Contact Info:

John Sibert
Manager, Pelagic Fisheries Research Program
Tel : 808 956-4109

Songbirds offer clues to highly practiced motor skills in humans


San Francisco - The melodious sound of a songbird may appear effortless, but his elocutions are actually the result of rigorous training undergone in youth and maintained throughout adulthood. His tune has virtually “crystallized” by maturity.

The same control is seen in the motor performance of top athletes and musicians. Yet, subtle variations in highly practiced skills persist in both songbirds and humans. Now, scientists think they know why. Their finding, reported in the current issue of “Nature,” suggests that natural variation is a built-in mechanism designed to allow the nervous system to explore various subtle options aimed at maintaining and optimizing motor skills in the face of such variables as aging and injury.

While the study was conducted in the adult male Bengalese Finch, a perky fellow who uses his song to woo females, the finding has implications, the scientists say, for understanding the way in which adult humans perform and retain well-learned motor skills. More broadly, the study provides insights that could inform strategies for rehabilitating patients following strokes and other damage to the nervous system.

“Many neuroscientists have thought that the nervous system simply didn’t have the ability to control movement at a highly precise level,” says lead author Evren Tumer, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of senior author Michael Brainard, PhD, UCSF assistant professor of physiology. “After all, we’re not machines. But our study suggests that subtle variation can serve a purpose and contribute to the maintenance of motor skills.” “If a golfer had a perfect swing, and all the conditions within him and the external environment were static, this wouldn’t be necessary,” he says. “But there are always changes — muscles get tired or are fresher, neurons die or change with age. There is always a bit of change somewhere in the system.”

“To keep tuned up,” says Brainard, “the nervous system constantly needs to experiment, to continually correct for deviations.” The tune of songbirds is a complex skill, produced in highly stereotyped fashion from one rendition to the next. Juveniles learn their song over a period of months, first memorizing their father’s tune and then, weeks later, embarking on a period of vocal exploration, in which they initiate their fledgling renditions while comparing them to the memory of their father’s tune, laid down in their neural circuitry.

This process, using auditory feedback, involves a continuous fine-tuning of the bird’s melody, culminating in a stable, nearly “crystallized,” song. Adult songbirds, meanwhile, rely on auditory feedback to maintain their song, and previous studies by Brainard have shown that if the birds are deaf, or receive garbled auditory feedback via a computer-based intervention, the fidelity of their song gradually deteriorates.

Scientists have not known, however, whether modulation in adult birdsong can be driven, in a predictable way, through auditory feedback. In the current study, the team examined this possibility. They used a computerized system to monitor small natural variations in the pitch of targeted elements of the birds’ song, and then delivered disruptive auditory feedback to a subset of the vocalizations, or “syllables.”

The disruption was in the form of a short burst of white noise - a static “chh!-chh-chh!” sound. Higher pitched renditions received a short burst of white noise, while lower pitched versions were left undisturbed. The response was nearly immediate. Birds receiving the white noise feedback rapidly shifted the pitch of their vocalizations to avoid the sound. The changes were restricted precisely to the targeted syllable. “It was quite dramatic,” says Tumer. “We were able to make the bird sing a particular syllable with a higher pitch.”

“This data provides the first evidence that you can take this really stereotyped behavior that people have assumed was crystallized and change it in a predetermined way.” Notably, when the white noise bursts were stopped, the pitch reverted to its original range, indicating that the nervous system retained a representation of the initial song and that there was “some drive to return to it.”

The scientists also examined whether more dramatic remodeling of the birds’ song was possible. They explored this possibility by creating conditions in which escape from white noise required the birds to make progressively larger shifts in pitch. Under these conditions, the scientists were able to incrementally drive large changes to the point that syllables were produced in a range that did not overlap with the baseline range. “This showed you can drive really big changes in this normally stereotyped behavior but you have to do it incrementally,” says Tumer.

“This could have implications for rehabilitation strategies in humans.” In support of the current findings, previous work by Brainard’s team and others has revealed that when male songbirds sing alone there is greater variability in their song than when they sing to females. The theory, says Brainard, is that the birds can afford to experiment, and thus practice their tunes, when the pressure is off.

This process, he suggests, is not occurring at a conscious level. Rather, it is likely driven by neurochemicals released under varying circumstances that are then acting on a region of the nervous system known as the basal ganglia, which is critical to song learning and maintenance. “You could imagine,” says Tumer, who is also a member of the Keck Center for Integrative Neuroscience at UCSF, “that when wooing a female bird — or stepping onto the green for the Masters golf tournament -- neuromodulatory systems would be more engaged than if the bird were on a lonely tree branch or the athlete on a sleepy Sunday afternoon round of golf with friends.”

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Sloan-Swartz Foundation and the McKnight Foundation. UCSF is a leading university dedicated to defining health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Study reveals severe decline of Europe's common birds

Study reveals severe decline of Europe's common birds

In pictures - The species under threat

A grey partridge

A grey partridge: Once common on British farmland, numbers have fallen by 79% since 1980. Photograph: RSPB

Almost half of common European birds are heading towards "continental extinction", a new report warns today.

The alarming rate of decline revealed in the report has fuelled fears for the future of many of the continent's birds, including the grey partridge, lesser spotted woodpecker and crested lark.

Almost half (45%) of Europe's common birds have declined over a 26-year period according to the report, the State of Europe's Common Birds 2007.

The report's analysis of 124 of Europe's common birds, published by the European Bird Census Council, RSPB and BirdLife International, has revealed that 56 species of Europe's birds declined across 20 European countries between 1980 and 2005.

Of the 10 common birds showing the greatest declines, five are farmland birds such as the crested lark, which declined by 95%, and the lapwing, whose numbers more than halved. Seven are regular nesting birds in the UK, including the lesser spotted woodpecker, which has suffered an 81% decline, the grey partridge, a 79% decline, and turtle dove, whose numbers are down by 62%.

A recent study by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust revealed that the grey partridge faces additional pressure in the UK from hunters as they are often mistaken for the more common red-legged partridge.

Mark Avery, the RSPB's conservation director, said: "Seeing a countryside increasingly bereft of familiar birds, like the grey partridge, turtle dove and lapwing, is deeply worrying. These declines are so severe that in Europe they are considered to be heading towards continental extinction – it is only the sizeable populations of both birds in Asia, which prevents them from being considered at risk of global extinction."

Increasing intensification of farming is thought to be the main cause of the overall 44% decline among Europe's 33 common farmland birds.

In contrast, 29 species of bird, including the hawfinch, raven and common buzzard, have increased across Europe, and the populations of a further 27 are stable.

The study was led by Richard Gregory, the chairman of the European Bird Census Council, and head of monitoring and indicators at the RSPB.

He said: "Unsurprisingly, some of the 10 species, such as the collared dove, that have shown the greatest increases in Europe are birds that don't rely on specialist habitats and have taken advantage of new opportunities."

"The increases in buzzard and raven are encouraging as the European populations of both birds appear to be bouncing back after decades of unwarranted persecution."

Gregory added "We know that birds can be excellent indicators of change and although the overall picture is bleak, there are signs of recovery and we have the knowledge to help many of these birds.

The 10 species that have shown the greatest decline in Europe between 1980 and 2005 are:

Crested lark (95% decline)
Lesser spotted woodpecker (81% decline)
Grey partridge (79% decline)
Wryneck (74% decline)
Wheatear (70% decline)
Nightingale (63% decline)
Turtle dove (62% decline)
Willow tit (58% decline)
Lapwing (51% decline)
Serin (41% decline)

The species that have shown the greatest increases between 1980 and 2005 are:

Hawfinch (658% increase)
Collared flycatcher (182% increase)
Raven (118% increase)
Blackcap (82% increase)
Common buzzard (80% increase)
Black woodpecker (77% increase)
Woodpigeon (71% increase)
Collared dove (59% increase)
Chiffchaff (56% increase)
Green woodpecker (43% increase)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

World's oldest Sumatran orangutan dies in Miami

From: Reuters


MIAMI (Reuters) - A Sumatran orangutan, thought to be the world's oldest, has died in Miami at age 55, a zoo spokesman said on Sunday .

Nonja, who was born in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra in June 1952, was found dead on Saturday morning, Miami Metro Zoo spokesman Ron Magill told Reuters.

He said a necropsy had been performed on Saturday and that a small mass of blood had been found on Nonja's brain, pointing to a tumor or aneurysm as the likely cause of death.

Magill said one other Sumatran orangutan had lived until the age of 57. But Nonja was believed to be the oldest surviving great ape of her kind in the world, both in captivity and in the wild, he said.

Most of the animals die before they reach their mid-40s, according to Magill, who said Nonja had mothered five offspring.

"She was a grande dame and I think she knew it," he said.

Nonja was shipped to Miami from a zoo in Holland in 1983 and her name means "girl" in Dutch, Magill said.

According to the Sumatran Orangutan Society, the species has been classified as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union and could become extinct in the wild in less than 10 years. There were 7,300 Sumatran orangutans in the wild in 2003, the group said.

(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Biofuels, the Biggest Scam Going

Organic Consumers Association


Straight to the Source

Web Note: Jim Goodman is an organic farmer from Wisconsin and a Policy Board member of the Organic Consumers Association

Where is agriculture headed? Can we feed a growing population and meet the demand for biofuels in the Industrialized North? Supporters of biofuel agriculture, (grain and chemical companies, Wall St. investors, politicians and most University researchers) avoid mentioning the cost of inputs, the fossil fuels, the environmental damage, the physical toll on animals and humans, and the growing problem of hunger that will accompany the switch from food to energy crop production. They want us to believe the switch to energy crops will be so easy and so practical.

Iowa Senator Charles Grassley tells us that "BioFuels" will give agriculture new importance as a producer of energy as well as food and fiber. It will be a win, win, win, situation, good for America's energy independence, economic prosperity and for the environment.

Will bioenergy production save American agriculture, end our dependence on oil, save the environment and keep food on everyones table? Perhaps not. Biofuels are not the "cash cow" farmers were promised. As an energy source they are less efficient and no "greener" than oil. Growing them will cause food prices to rise and as a result, the poor will be at an even greater risk of hunger. Rain forests will be destroyed and become cropland, peasants around the world will continue to loose their land, their food sovereignty, all to feed the worlds appetite for fuel.

Can biofuels replace a significant amount of fossil fuel? Perhaps not. If, in 2006, we had dedicated the entire US corn crop to ethanol production we would have replaced only 12% of the gasoline we used. If we had planted every acre of cropland in the nation to corn we would have replaced only 80% of the gasoline we used. If the U.S. Energy Information Administration is correct in its estimates, and by 2030 the US is capable of producing 700,000 barrels of ethanol per day, we will have succeeded in offsetting roughly 6 percent of our transportation fuel needs.

Is ethanol really a renewable fuel? Perhaps not. An article in Science magazine in 2006 showed that, based on the work of researchers at UC Berkeley, only 5 to 26% of the energy in ethanol is "renewable". The fossil fuel needed to grow and process the ethanol actually negated the majority of its energy value.

Are biofuels really better for the environment? Perhaps not. Data from the University of Edinburgh shows that biofuels produce high levels of nitrous oxide a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than CO2. In total they can produce 70% more greenhouse gas emissions than fossil fuels.

Will we be able to produce significant levels of energy crops without impacting world food supplies and prices? Perhaps not. Biofuel production could push food prices up as much as 20-40% according to The International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.

The production of biofuels depends on billions of dollars in government subsidies in the form of loan guarantees for the construction of biofuel plants, tax exemptions on biofuels and direct payments to farmers. A 2006 study by the International Institute for Sustainable Development showed an annual subsidy cost of $1.05-$1.38 per gallon of ethanol produced, a total of $7billion. How much are we willing to spend and for what?

Biofuels are a greenwash scam, a feel good solution for the end of cheap oil. When one considers the industrial agricultural system that is necessary for their production, biofuels are anything but sustainable. Costly inputs of fuel, fertilizer and biotech seed will challenge the profitability of Northern farmers while peasant farmers will continue to be evicted to make room for monocultures of corn, soy, sugarcane and oil palms. Food prices will climb, hunger and poverty will increase and we will be no closer to energy independence or truly renewable fuels.

Now that the President and Congress have, through the Farm and Energy Bills, locked us into large scale production of energy crops and the belief we can continue to live our lives as usual with no pain, what do we do? We need energy solutions that will work; tough vehicle fuel standards, new public transportation systems, real renewable fuels like solar and wind and mandated commitments to conservation and recycling, now, not a 2030 "pie in the sky".

So, when we drive to the supermarket and complain about the high prices, then proceed to load up our flex-fuel SUV, will we think about the 50% of the worlds population that lives on less than $2 a day? Will we even consider that when we bought into the biofuel scam we also took away their food sovereignty and may have handed them a death sentence?

Jim Goodman is a dairy farmer from Wonewoc ,Wisconsin.

NOAA: 2007 a Top Ten Warm Year for U.S. and Globe

From: NOAA


The year 2007 is on pace to become one of the 10 warmest years for the contiguous U.S., since national records began in 1895, according to preliminary data from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. The year was marked by exceptional drought in the U.S. Southeast and the West, which helped fuel another extremely active wildfire season. The year also brought outbreaks of cold air, and killer heat waves and floods. Meanwhile, the global surface temperature for 2007 is expected to be fifth warmest since records began in 1880. Preliminary data will be updated in early January to reflect the final three weeks of December and is not considered final until a full analysis is complete next spring.

U.S. Temperatures

* The preliminary annual average temperature for 2007 across the contiguous United States will likely be near 54.3° F- 1.5°F (0.8°C) above the twentieth century average of 52.8°F. This currently establishes 2007 as the eighth warmest on record. Only February and April were cooler-than-average, while March and August were second warmest in the 113-year record.

* The warmer-than-average conditions in 2007 influenced residential energy demand in opposing ways, as measured by the nation’s Residential Energy Demand Temperature Index. Using this index, NOAA scientists determined that the U.S. residential energy demand was about three percent less during the winter and eight percent higher during the summer than what would have occurred under average climate conditions.

* Exceptional warmth in late March was followed by a record cold outbreak from the central Plains to the Southeast in early April. The combination of premature growth from the March warmth and the record-breaking freeze behind it caused more than an estimated $1 billion in losses to crops (agricultural and horticultural).

* A severe heat wave affected large parts of the central and southeastern U.S. in August, setting more than 2,500 new daily record highs.

Global Temperatures

* The global annual temperature − for combined land and ocean surfaces — for 2007 is expected to be near 58.0 F — and would be the fifth warmest since records began in 1880. Some of the largest and most widespread warm anomalies occurred from eastern Europe to central Asia.

* Including 2007, seven of the eight warmest years on record have occurred since 2001 and the 10 warmest years have all occurred since 1997. The global average surface temperature has risen between 0.6°C and 0.7°C since the start of the twentieth century, and the rate of increase since 1976 has been approximately three times faster than the century-scale trend.

* The greatest warming has taken place in high latitude regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Anomalous warmth in 2007 contributed to the lowest Arctic sea ice extent since satellite records began in 1979, surpassing the previous record low set in 2005 by a remarkable 23 percent. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this is part of a continuing trend in end-of-summer Arctic sea ice extent reductions of about 10 percent per decade since 1979.

U.S. Precipitation and Drought Highlights

* Severe to exceptional drought affected the Southeast and western U.S. More than three-quarters of the Southeast was in drought from mid-summer into December. Increased evaporation from usually warm temperatures, combined with a lack of precipitation, worsened drought conditions. Drought conditions also affected large parts of the Upper Midwest and areas of the Northeast.

* Water conservation measures and drought disasters, or states of emergency, were declared by governors in at least five southeastern states, along with California, Oregon, Maryland, Connecticut, and Delaware at some point during the year.

* A series of storms brought flooding, millions of dollars in damages and loss of life from Texas to Kansas and Missouri in June and July. Making matters worse were the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin, which produced heavy rainfall in the same region in August.

* Drought and unusual warmth contributed to another extremely active wildfire season. Approximately nine million acres burned through early December, most of it in the contiguous U.S., according to preliminary estimates by the National Interagency Fire Center.

* There were 15 named storms in the Atlantic Basin (Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico) in 2007, four more than the long-term average. Six storms developed into hurricanes, including Hurricanes Dean and Felix, two category 5 storms that struck Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Nicaragua, respectively (the first two recorded category 5 landfalls in the Atlantic Basin in the same year). No major hurricanes made landfall in the U.S., but three tropical depressions, one tropical storm and one Category 1 Hurricane made landfall along the Southeast and Gulf coasts.

* La Nina conditions developed during the latter half of 2007, and by the end of November, sea surface temperatures near the equator of the eastern Pacific were more than 3.6°F (2°C) below average. This La Nina event is likely to continue into early 2008, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

Climate changes force travelers to consider sites sooner than later

Climate changes force travelers to consider sites sooner than later
Exit Glacier near Seward, Alaska, is one of the few glaciers people can walk up to and touch.

It used to be that the only things that stood between you and a holiday to some awe-inspiring, far-flung locale was how much money you had in your pocket and whether you had the vacation time. Yet a third obstacle appears to be rearing its ugly head for some of the world's most cherished, and gorgeous, destinations: the effects of global warming.

Glaciers are melting into oblivion, Mediterranean beaches may soon be too torrid to lounge on during the summer, ski resorts may be hurting for snow, and coral reefs are being bleached white by ocean waters that have grown too warm.

Churchill, Manitoba, in the Canadian Sub-Arctic, is but one example. For decades, tourists have traveled to this snowy spot along the Hudson Bay during October and November's "bear season" to view polar bears in their natural habitat. A 20-year warming trend, however, has caused the bay to melt an average of three weeks earlier and freeze later. As a result, the bears are smaller and fewer in number because of less hunting time on the ice. Scientists estimate the entire population could shrink by two-thirds in the next 50 years.

Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania, home to Africa's highest and most famous mountain, is another. The snowy ice cap immortalized by Ernest Hemingway in the short story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" are melting so quickly that scientists expect them to disappear completely in the next 20 years.

Overall, the news is so gloomy -- and pervasive -- that it's actually given rise to a new form of travel: so-called "doom" tourism.

"There's definitely trouble," says Chris Doyle, director of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, a global membership organization dedicated to promoting and growing the adventure travel market. "Every corner of the Earth truly is being impacted by global climate change."

"Really, it's a tragic thing," agrees Patty Glick, senior global warming specialist for the National Wildlife Federation. "We're feeling so under the gun."

As environmentalists and others scurry to slow or even reverse the negative impact of global warming, travelers might be asking themselves this: What sights should I see sooner rather than later?

In April, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization released a report, "Case Studies on Climate Change and World Heritage." It includes 830 natural and cultural sites facing threats posed by climate change. Among those on the list are Sagarmatha National Park in Nepal, where the melting of glaciers are affecting rare wildlife species such as the snow leopard and the red panda; the city of London, where rising sea levels and flooding of the River Thames due to climate change could have a devastating effect on historic buildings such as the Tower of London; and the Great Barrier Reef in northern Australia. Something of a haven for snorkelers and divers, the reef -- the world's largest single structure made from living organisms -- will be "functionally extinct" by 2050, according to a report released earlier this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Then there's Greenland, where icebergs the size of small islands float along the coastline. Some people consider it ground zero for global warming because the ice sheets are melting so quickly, says Ms. Glick. The Ilulissat ice fjord was 25 miles long just a few years ago; today, it measures 31 miles. So hot is the tourism here that officials expect twice as many tourists next year than this year, or about 30,000.

Better accessibility certainly helps: Air Greenland now offers non-stop flights between Baltimore/Washington International Airport and Kangerlussuag, in southeastern Greenland. Cost: about $1,300, depending on the exchange rate. Or, if you have deeper pockets and more time, you can take a boat.

Seattle-based Zegrahm Expeditions, for example, is offering a 17-day expedition of the High Arctic aboard the icebreaker Kapitan Khlebnikov that in addition to Greenland takes in the sights of Ellesmere and Baffin islands; it includes a helicopter excursion to see the melting ice cap in Thule. But it's not cheap: Prices start at about $16,000.

One of the most endangered spots domestically is Glacier National Park in Montana. For close to a century, American families have traveled there to see the glaciers that carved, sculpted and formed this landscape millions of years ago. Yet in some places, the park has shrunk by more than half.

In 1850, notes Tanya Tschesnok, publicity manager for the Sierra Club, the park counted 150 glaciers; today, there are fewer than three dozen.

"And they're smaller than they used to be," she says.

Travelers to Alaska are experiencing the same sense of urgency. According to park rangers, Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward, which is one of the most visited sheets of ice in the north, has receded nearly 1,000 feet in the last 10 years.

Global warming also is affecting our beaches and coastal walk lands. As glaciers melt, the sea water is expected to rise anywhere from 8 inches to more than 2 feet over the next century. In Florida, for example, that will translate into the ocean advancing inland as much as 400 feet, eroding the beaches and flooding pricey oceanfront hotels and homes.

"One of the must vulnerable places in the U.S. right now are our coastlines," says Ms. Tschesnok.

There are similar worries about cold-weather destinations like ski resorts. Scientists are projecting that the ski season will not only be shorter but also that the snow line -- the point above which there's snow year-round -- will grow higher as temperatures gradually increase.

The wildlife federation's Ms. Glick isn't alone in wondering if the ski season will be affected at places such as Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia, north of Vancouver, site of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

"The top might not melt as quickly," says Ms. Glick, "but the lower part of the mountain will definitely see less snow and change the skiing."

Whether it will be an issue during the Olympics, she says, depends on the type of snow year we have, If it's bad, you'll hear a lot of talk of global warming. "But the trends definitely do not look good."

Locally, the Pennsylvania Tourism office to date doesn't have any particular worries about tourist destinations that might suffer from global warming in the near future, according to spokesman Michael Chapaloney. Ms. Glick, though, wonders if the state's cold water streams, which are a major tourist draw for anglers, will stay cold enough to sustain fish.

"You have a lot of good trout streams, and they're warming up to the point where they may not support trout in the future," she said.

Yet depending on your particular viewpoint, it's not all gloom and doom.

While the melting glaciers in Greenland may eventually hurt the ecosystem and threaten wildlife, it has also created new destinations to explore that otherwise would have remained hidden.

"If you go to the ice caps, it's just white and really boring," says adventurer Jeff Mantel of California, who has been on seven Arctic expeditions, including four to the North Pole by foot, "But with the retreat of the glaciers, the coastline of Northern Greenland is really spectacular, with new islands and some really unbelievable sites."

Peter Hess, chairman of the Philadelphia chapter of The Explorers Club and a world-class diver, tells a similar tale. Although it's often touted as the biggest downside of global warming, rising sea levels have actually made it better for divers like himself.

"There's more sites [to explore] under water," he says.

Gretchen McKay can be reached at or 412-263-1419.


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