Saturday, January 26, 2008

U.S. plan OKs logging in Alaska national forest

(01-26) 04:00 PST Washington - --

More than 3 million acres in Alaska's Tongass National Forest would be open to logging under a federal plan that supporters believe will revive the state's struggling timber industry. Environmentalists, however, fear that the proposal will devastate the forest.

The Bush administration on Friday released a management plan for the forest, the largest in the country at nearly 17 million acres. The plan would leave about 3.4 million acres open to logging, road building and other development, including about 2.4 million acres that are now remote and roadless. About 663,000 acres are in areas considered most valuable for timber production.

Alaska Regional Forester Denny Bschor, who approved the Tongass management plan, said its goals are to sustain the diversity and health of the forest, provide livelihoods and subsistence for Alaska residents and ensure a source of recreation and solitude for forest visitors.

At more than 26,000 square miles, the Tongass - often labeled the crown jewel in the national forest system - is larger than 10 states.

"There may be disappointment that the (allowable timber sales) hasn't increased or diminished, depending on your viewpoint," Bschor said in a statement.

"What is significant in the amended plan, however, is our commitment to the state of Alaska to provide an economic timber sale program which will allow the current industry to stabilize, and for an integrated timber industry to become established."

Environmentalists said the plan continues a Bush administration policy of catering to the timber industry.

"The new plan suffers from the same central problem as the old plan. It leaves 2.4 million acres of wild, roadless backcountry areas open to clear-cutting and new logging roads," said Tom Waldo, an attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice.

The Alaska Forest Association, an industry group, said the plan fell short of industry's needs. If necessary, the group said, it will challenge the plan in court - a threat also made by environmentalists.

What’s Your Consumption Factor?
Published: January 2, 2008

Los Angeles

TO mathematicians, 32 is an interesting number: it’s 2 raised to the fifth power, 2 times 2 times 2 times 2 times 2. To economists, 32 is even more special, because it measures the difference in lifestyles between the first world and the developing world. The average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world. That factor of 32 has big consequences.

To understand them, consider our concern with world population. Today, there are more than 6.5 billion people, and that number may grow to around 9 billion within this half-century. Several decades ago, many people considered rising population to be the main challenge facing humanity. Now we realize that it matters only insofar as people consume and produce.

If most of the world’s 6.5 billion people were in cold storage and not metabolizing or consuming, they would create no resource problem. What really matters is total world consumption, the sum of all local consumptions, which is the product of local population times the local per capita consumption rate.

The estimated one billion people who live in developed countries have a relative per capita consumption rate of 32. Most of the world’s other 5.5 billion people constitute the developing world, with relative per capita consumption rates below 32, mostly down toward 1.

The population especially of the developing world is growing, and some people remain fixated on this. They note that populations of countries like Kenya are growing rapidly, and they say that’s a big problem. Yes, it is a problem for Kenya’s more than 30 million people, but it’s not a burden on the whole world, because Kenyans consume so little. (Their relative per capita rate is 1.) A real problem for the world is that each of us 300 million Americans consumes as much as 32 Kenyans. With 10 times the population, the United States consumes 320 times more resources than Kenya does.

People in the third world are aware of this difference in per capita consumption, although most of them couldn’t specify that it’s by a factor of 32. When they believe their chances of catching up to be hopeless, they sometimes get frustrated and angry, and some become terrorists, or tolerate or support terrorists. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it has become clear that the oceans that once protected the United States no longer do so. There will be more terrorist attacks against us and Europe, and perhaps against Japan and Australia, as long as that factorial difference of 32 in consumption rates persists.

People who consume little want to enjoy the high-consumption lifestyle. Governments of developing countries make an increase in living standards a primary goal of national policy. And tens of millions of people in the developing world seek the first-world lifestyle on their own, by emigrating, especially to the United States and Western Europe, Japan and Australia. Each such transfer of a person to a high-consumption country raises world consumption rates, even though most immigrants don’t succeed immediately in multiplying their consumption by 32.

Among the developing countries that are seeking to increase per capita consumption rates at home, China stands out. It has the world’s fastest growing economy, and there are 1.3 billion Chinese, four times the United States population. The world is already running out of resources, and it will do so even sooner if China achieves American-level consumption rates. Already, China is competing with us for oil and metals on world markets.

Per capita consumption rates in China are still about 11 times below ours, but let’s suppose they rise to our level. Let’s also make things easy by imagining that nothing else happens to increase world consumption — that is, no other country increases its consumption, all national populations (including China’s) remain unchanged and immigration ceases. China’s catching up alone would roughly double world consumption rates. Oil consumption would increase by 106 percent, for instance, and world metal consumption by 94 percent.

If India as well as China were to catch up, world consumption rates would triple. If the whole developing world were suddenly to catch up, world rates would increase elevenfold. It would be as if the world population ballooned to 72 billion people (retaining present consumption rates).

Readers' Comments

"Germany and Denmark have shown that switching to renewables and corporate recycling actually generate economic growth and increase employment."
Richard Wilk, Goteborg, Sweden

Some optimists claim that we could support a world with nine billion people. But I haven’t met anyone crazy enough to claim that we could support 72 billion. Yet we often promise developing countries that if they will only adopt good policies — for example, institute honest government and a free-market economy — they, too, will be able to enjoy a first-world lifestyle. This promise is impossible, a cruel hoax: we are having difficulty supporting a first-world lifestyle even now for only one billion people.

We Americans may think of China’s growing consumption as a problem. But the Chinese are only reaching for the consumption rate we already have. To tell them not to try would be futile.

The only approach that China and other developing countries will accept is to aim to make consumption rates and living standards more equal around the world. But the world doesn’t have enough resources to allow for raising China’s consumption rates, let alone those of the rest of the world, to our levels. Does this mean we’re headed for disaster?

No, we could have a stable outcome in which all countries converge on consumption rates considerably below the current highest levels. Americans might object: there is no way we would sacrifice our living standards for the benefit of people in the rest of the world. Nevertheless, whether we get there willingly or not, we shall soon have lower consumption rates, because our present rates are unsustainable.

Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to consumption rates. Much American consumption is wasteful and contributes little or nothing to quality of life. For example, per capita oil consumption in Western Europe is about half of ours, yet Western Europe’s standard of living is higher by any reasonable criterion, including life expectancy, health, infant mortality, access to medical care, financial security after retirement, vacation time, quality of public schools and support for the arts. Ask yourself whether Americans’ wasteful use of gasoline contributes positively to any of those measures.

Other aspects of our consumption are wasteful, too. Most of the world’s fisheries are still operated non-sustainably, and many have already collapsed or fallen to low yields — even though we know how to manage them in such a way as to preserve the environment and the fish supply. If we were to operate all fisheries sustainably, we could extract fish from the oceans at maximum historical rates and carry on indefinitely.

The same is true of forests: we already know how to log them sustainably, and if we did so worldwide, we could extract enough timber to meet the world’s wood and paper needs. Yet most forests are managed non-sustainably, with decreasing yields.

Just as it is certain that within most of our lifetimes we’ll be consuming less than we do now, it is also certain that per capita consumption rates in many developing countries will one day be more nearly equal to ours. These are desirable trends, not horrible prospects. In fact, we already know how to encourage the trends; the main thing lacking has been political will.

Fortunately, in the last year there have been encouraging signs. Australia held a recent election in which a large majority of voters reversed the head-in-the-sand political course their government had followed for a decade; the new government immediately supported the Kyoto Protocol on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Also in the last year, concern about climate change has increased greatly in the United States. Even in China, vigorous arguments about environmental policy are taking place, and public protests recently halted construction of a huge chemical plant near the center of Xiamen. Hence I am cautiously optimistic. The world has serious consumption problems, but we can solve them if we choose to do so.

Jared Diamond, a professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, is the author of “Collapse” and “Guns, Germs and Steel.”

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cities uniting for solar power

Cities uniting for solar power

Three-year goal to triple solar-generated electricity


Sonoma County cities are coming together on a joint effort to nearly triple solar-generated electricity in three years, following Sebastopol's lead on alternative energy.

Solar Sebastopol, an effort begun five years ago, has been called a model for Solar Sonoma County, a new group comprised of city and county governments.

The aim is to make it easier for residents and businesses to go solar. The group is considering an easier permit process and pointing residents to new bank loan programs that hope to offer monthly payments no higher than a homeowner's current electricity bills.

"Let's do things that can be copied elsewhere in the state," real estate investor Alan Strachan said.

Strachan and fellow investor Dennis Hunter have put together the Green Energy Loan program. Strachan has been involved in planning for the county solar effort and has four local banks involved in the program, with at least one more expressing interest.

Sebastopol officials helped obtain a $73,000 grant specifically for Solar Sonoma County. Santa Rosa is now seeking a $200,000 grant for the effort.

(Due to lame US copyright laws, the rest of this article you will have to read directly on the Press Democrat site. Just click the title and it will take you there).

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hurricanes and global warming devastate Caribbean coral reefs

Storm damage from waves and death of vital algae likely to become more common, report warns

This article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday January 24 2008 on p27 of the International section. It was last updated at 02:17 on January 24 2008.
A coral reef in Bonaire

A coral reef in the Caribbean island of Bonaire. Photograph: Alamy

Warmer seas and a record hurricane season in 2005 have devastated more than half of the coral reefs in the Caribbean, according to scientists. In a report published yesterday, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) warned that this severe damage to reefs would probably become a regular event given current predictions of rising global temperatures due to climate change.

According to the report, 2005 was the hottest year on average since records began and had the most hurricanes ever recorded in a season. Large hotspots in the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico powered strong tropical hurricanes such as Katrina, which developed into the most devastating storm ever to hit the US.

In addition to the well-documented human cost, the storms damaged coral by increasing the physical strength of waves and covering the coast in muddy run-off water from the land. The higher sea temperature also caused bleaching, in which the coral lose the symbiotic algae they need to survive. The reefs then lose their colour and become more susceptible to death from starvation or disease.


Carl Gustaf Lundin, head of the IUCN's global marine programme, said: "Sadly for coral reefs, it's highly likely extreme warming will happen again. When it does, the impacts will be even more severe. If we don't do something about climate change, the reefs won't be with us for much longer." Some of the worst-hit regions of the Caribbean, which contains more than 10% of the world's coral reefs, included the area from Florida through to the French West Indies and the Cayman Islands. In August 2005 severe bleaching affected between 50% and 95% of coral colonies and killed more than half, mostly in the Lesser Antilles.

The IUCN report highlights pressures on coral reefs in addition to those of overfishing and pollution identified in recent years. A recent study found that reefs near large human populations suffered the most damage.

Coral reefs are an important part of the marine ecosystem, supporting an estimated 25% of all marine life including more than 4,000 species of fish. They provide spawning, nursery, refuge and feeding areas for a wide variety of other creatures such as lobsters, crabs, starfish and sea turtles. Reefs also play a crucial role as natural breakwaters, protecting coastlines from storms.

"It's quite clear that the structure and their function as they are right now in the Caribbean is quite severely impeded," said Lundin. "Over the next few decades we will see a large reduction in the number of reef areas."

Reefs also boost the local economy - in the Caribbean coral reefs provide more than $4bn (£2bn) a year from fisheries, scuba-diving tourism and shoreline protection. According to an analysis by the World Resources Institute: Reefs at Risk, coral loss in the region could cost the local economy up to $420m every year.


"The only possible way to sustain some live coral on the reefs around the world," said the report, "will be to carefully manage the direct pressures like pollution, fishing and damaging coastal developments, and hope that some coral species are able to adapt to the warmer environment."

Lundin said managing these more direct pressures on reefs would lessen the impact of rising sea temperatures. "Over time we'll also see transitional species; if we give nature enough time it's possible some coral will actually cope with the warmer water and we'll get another composition of the reef," he said.

Despite this, the report concluded that a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the next 20 years would be "critical to control further warming and dangerously high CO2 levels that will probably reduce the robustness and competitive fitness of corals and limit the habitats for many other organisms living on Caribbean coral reefs".

The report was compiled from data and observations of coral bleaching from more than 70 coral reef workers and volunteer divers, and was launched to coincide with the first day of the International Year of the Reef 2008, a global campaign coordinating activities by 225 organisations in 50 countries to raise awareness about the value of coral reefs and the threats they face.


The 2005 hurricane year broke all records, with 26 named storms, including 13 hurricanes. In July, the unusually strong Hurricane Dennis struck Grenada, Cuba and Florida, while Hurricane Emily set a record as the strongest to hit the Caribbean before August. Hurricane Katrina in August was the most devastating storm to hit the US, causing massive damage around New Orleans. Hurricane Rita passed through the Gulf of Mexico to strike Texas and Louisiana in September. Hurricane Wilma in October was the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record and caused major damage in Mexico. The season ended in December when tropical storm Zeta formed, before petering out in January. Many of these hurricanes caused considerable damage to the reefs via wave action and run-off of muddy, polluted freshwater.

California's Warming Climate Caused by Humans

From: DOE/Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

ecent research by scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of California, Merced and the National Center for Atmospheric Research shows that California temperatures have jumped statewide by more than 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit between 1915 and 2000. This warming is likely related to human activities.

Using data from up to eight different observational records, the team found the warming has been fastest in late winter and early spring.

“The trends in daily minimum and maximum temperatures over the last 50 and 85 years are inconsistent with current model-based estimates of natural internal climate variability,” said lead researcher CĂ©line Bonfils, a former UC Merced postdoc now working at Lawrence Livermore.“It’s pretty clear that natural causes alone just can’t cut it and external factors such as greenhouse gases and urbanization come into play.”

California is not alone when it comes to warming trends. Late winter and springtime temperatures have increased in nearly all of western North America. They have been associated with a large change in atmospheric circulation in the northern Pacific, likely resulting from greenhouse gas-induced warming.

But all California climate trends during the 20th century aren’t so clear.

For example, less warming is observed in summer. This warming, which mainly occurs at night but not during daytime, is not well explained by historical climate simulations.

“We looked at observations and models and they don’t concur,” said Phillip Duffy, part of the Livermore team and a UC Merced adjunct professor. “One possible reason for this is that most models don’t include factors such as irrigation, which can influence regional climate.”

The team found the lack of a trend in summertime maximum temperatures may be associated with the rapid expansion of large-scale irrigation during the 20th century, an important factor in California that is not accounted for in the models.

“We found empirical evidence that irrigation has a large cooling effect on local summer daytime temperatures but minimal effect on nighttime temperatures,” said Bonfils, who investigated that issue in another Livermore study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year.

Until now, cooling from irrigation may have counteracted the daytime warming from mounting greenhouse gases and urbanization.

“If this hypothesis is verified, the acceleration of CO2 emissions combined with a leveling of irrigation may result in a rapid summertime warming in the Central Valley in the near future,” said David Lobell, co-author in both studies.

What does this mean for the future climate in California? “The 21st century may be less climatically complex than today,” Bonfils said. “Greenhouse warming is likely to be the dominant factor over today’s many climate influences.”

“Our study represents a credible first step toward the identification of the effects of human activities on California climate,” said Benjamin Santer, also part of the Livermore team.

An increase in California temperatures could have dire consequences for the state’s water system. “If human-induced climate change is occurring, societal impacts — such as impacts on our water supply — cannot be far behind,” Duffy said.

The research, funded by the California Energy Commission, and including contributions from Livermore scientists Thomas Phillips and Charles Doutriaux, appears in the Dec. 19 online edition of the journal Climatic Change. The research also was included in the “Report to the Governor and Legislature on Climate Change.” California temperature trends also are discussed in a recent article in the American Geophysical journal, Eos, written by Duffy, Bonfils and Lobell.

Big blow brought tropical bird to Healdsburg

The wayward bird is resting in Cordelia at the Internatio... John and Dana Naber found the bird near their Healdsburg ... Monte Merrick has been caring for the bird since its arri... How to Spot the Frigatebird. Chronicle Graphic

A giant tropical bird - a type rarely, if ever, seen in the Bay Area - got stuck in the vortex of a hurricane-force Pacific storm this month and took a dizzying Wizard of Oz-like ride hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles off course.

That's the theory of how it ended up in a tree in Healdsburg.

The gangly, feathered galoot with a hooked beak and wingspan topping 7 feet is recovering at a Bay Area animal rescue center after a couple of bird watchers spotted it in the tree and knew right away that it was alien to Northern California.

It was positively identified Tuesday as a male juvenile magnificent frigatebird, known scientifically as Fregata magnificens. The species is known to inhabit the tropical Atlantic, the Caribbean and Cape Verde Islands. Although frigatebirds breed along the Pacific coast as far north as Mexico, they are most at home in steaming hot equatorial regions like the Galapagos Islands.

"In our entire 37 years, we've never treated one in Northern California," said Monte Merrick, a wildlife rehabilitator for the International Bird Rescue Research Center, in Cordelia. "There have been sightings, but those sightings are rare."

The big bird was spotted on Jan. 4 after a winter storm with winds of over 75 mph swept through the Bay Area, knocking out power to thousands of residents.

John and Dana Naber said they walked that day to an old dead pine tree on the Russian River where ospreys normally feed near their house in Healdsburg. Up on a branch was a being the likes of which they had never seen before.

"This time we looked up and knew it wasn't an osprey," said Dana Naber. "We did not know what the bird was at first."

The couple ran back home, pulled out their bird books and began researching on the Internet. It looked, they concluded, like a frigatebird. But bird experts with the Audubon Society, Santa Rosa Bird Rescue and the rescue center in Cordelia treated their entreaties with the kind of skepticism one might expect from someone who had just been told there was a pterodactyl attacking tourists in the Tenderloin.

Seeing was believing, though. The alien bird was found the next day in a tree only 50 feet from where it was first spotted. A local window washer with a 40-foot ladder helped bird rescuers from Santa Rosa capture the seabird, which was taken to the Cordelia rescue center.

The wayward flier was sick, emaciated and near death, Merrick said, noting it was 400 grams underweight with a temperature far below normal. It was placed on intravenous drugs and has been recovering ever since.

The magnificent frigatebird, so named by sailors because of the way it sails majestically through the sky, is also known as a pirate bird because of its penchant for stealing food from other seabirds. South Seas sailors of a bygone era called it man-o'-war bird because of the expert way it would outmaneuver its rivals, silently sweeping down to the ocean and plucking up prey without getting wet and chasing and looting other birds with equal aplomb.

Its tactic is to chase other seabirds, forcing them to regurgitate their meals, which the frigatebird catches, more often than not, in midair.

Frigatebirds typically grow 36 inches long with a 90-inch wingspan. Males are all black. During mating season, they inflate a scarlet pouch on their throats for up to 20 minutes at a time. Females find the red balloon display irresistible.

Frigatebirds like the one found in Healdsburg are usually silent, but they make a rattling sound when they are nesting.

Experts say the birds produce a single egg and that both parents take turns feeding the chick for the first three months. The mother takes over for another eight months and, much like humans, it is common to see juveniles as big as their parents waiting to be fed.

Their populations appear to be declining, according to the experts, probably because of human destruction of habitat for housing and resorts, introduced predators, overfishing and disturbance of breeding colonies.

The Healdsburg frigatebird was named Florence by the Nabers until Tuesday, when they were informed that it was a male. It was their first opportunity since its capture to see the bird, which is being kept in a large wooden pen covered with sheets at the rescue center.

Merrick removed a pink sheet, revealing a white headed bird with a long beak hooking downward. Like a mother bird, Merrick held the bird's head and stuffed fish down its throat.

After the feeding, the bird shook its feathers in a way that reminded Merrick of pelican behavior. He said the shaking may be the result of stress or the cold or, perhaps, it's a natural feeding behavior.

"This is a juvenile bird and this would be its first winter, which might explain its problem finding its way around the world and ending up in Northern California," said Merrick.

Merrick said the fact that frigatebirds spend almost their entire lives aloft makes them especially susceptible to being blown off course. Some 1,500 frigatebirds were found in Kansas in 1988 after Hurricane Gilbert blew through the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Off course frigatebirds also have been reported on the Isle of Man, in Denmark and Spain. In 2005, a male was found in England, miles from the sea in Whitchurch, Shropshire. It died a few days later.

The only other magnificent frigatebird that anyone remembers in California landed on a cargo ship in the mid-Pacific in 2004 and was successfully rehabilitated at the Los Angeles Oiled Bird Care and Education Center, which is managed by the local rescue and rehabilitation center.

Merrick said the plan is to also take the bird to the Los Angeles center in February and release it in San Diego, which rescuers hope is far enough south for it to find its way back to the tropics.

Dana and John Naber said when that happens the wayward bird will have lived up to his new name, Freedom.

"He looks terrific," said Dana Naber, peering like a proud mother into the tent-like shelter where the bird is being kept. But, she added, "He's just like a man. He couldn't ask for directions."

For more information about the rescue center, go to:

E-mail Peter Fimrite at

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

B&Q to end sale of patio heaters

This article was first published on on Tuesday January 22 2008. It was last updated at 09:25 on January 22 2008.

The UK's largest DIY chain, B&Q, has announced it is to stop selling environmentally damaging patio heaters once its current stock is sold off.

The company said yesterday it has 20,000 heaters in its stores and expects to sell the last one during 2008. After that it will no longer stock the heaters once branded by ministers as "environmental obscenities."

The company says it has decided to stop selling the heaters which consume enough energy in an hour to make 400 cups of tea, as part of its plan to put the environment at the heart its business. It also follows a long campaign by against the heaters by environmental groups.

Ian Cheshire, the chief executive of B&Q, said: "A quarter of the UK's total carbon emissions come from the home and as the largest home improvement retailer in the country we are uniquely placed to help customers make a real difference.

"We are all too aware of the impact our lives have on the environment and our initiatives will provide real and simple solutions to help people live more sustainable lives," he said.

A report published last year by the Market Transformation Programme which supports government policy on sustainable products, estimated there could be as many 630,000 patio heaters in household gardens.

In April last year the Wyvale garden centre chain said it would no longer stock selling gas-powered patio heaters, following a campaign against them. The energy minister, Malcolm Wicks, once described them as "environmental obscenities".

Friends of the Earth welcomed the decision. Campaigner Ed Matthew said: "These carbon-belching monstrosities waste energy and cause needless damage to our environment. We are delighted that B&Q has decided to stop selling these products. But the government must now act and ban patio heaters. It's time to get tough on tackling climate change."

It has been claimed that domestic patio heaters alone could produce a total of 140,000 tones of carbon dioxide per year.

B&Q has also announced that it has signed a three-year partnership to become a One Planet Living business, a global initiative set up by the WWF which commits B&Q to 10 principles of sustainability. These include zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable water, natural habitats and wildlife, culture and heritage and equity and fair trade.

B&Q aims to have a substantial product range in store by 2010 which will give consumers further opportunities to buy truly sustainable home improvement products.

Global warming brings big problems to Giant's Causeway

Global warming brings big problems to Giant's Causeway

This article was first published on on Tuesday January 22 2008. It was last updated at 15:26 on January 22 2008.
Coastal erosion in Northern Ireland

At Murlough Nature Reserve in County Down wetter winters and drier summers could put important dune and heath plants at risk as invasive scrub thrives Photograph: Paul Wakefield/National Trust

Northern Ireland's biggest tourist attraction, the Giant's Causeway, could fall victim to global warming, the National Trust warned today.

The province's only World Heritage site is threatened by rising water levels and coastal erosion, says a report for the trust, which is the guardian of the site.

The report, by Queen's University and the University of Ulster, warned that part of Middle and Little Causeway could be under water for much of the winter by the end of the century.

The Grand Causeway could also suffer serious erosion by 2080 and new approach routes for visitors would probably have to be built, it said.

In the shorter term, predicted stormier weather at the site over the next decade would require greater safety measures to be introduced to stop people falling from the cliff next to the famous octagonal basalt stones.

In the medium term – from 2050 to 2080 – many more of the stones will be under the waves.

The causeway is one of three of the trust's properties in the province that are threatened by water levels which could rise by a metre by the end of the century, the charity said.

Murlough national nature reserve and Strangford Lough, both in County Down, are also at risk from coastal erosion and flooding.

At Strangford Lough, sea levels are predicted to rise by 25cm by 2050 with a "worst case scenario" prediction of a one-metre rise by the turn of the century.

The Lough, which is internationally important for its birds and other wildlife, is designated a marine nature reserve and a special area of conservation.

The greater the sea level rise, the greater the loss of its important tidal mud flats. This would have a significant impact on the availability of food for the tens of thousands of Brent geese and other birds that winter there.

As more of the Lough's islands disappear under water, there would also be a detrimental impact on the summer breeding of seabirds, including terns, ringed plovers and cormorants, and the population of seals.

The Murlough reserve could see 50-400 metres of the existing dune frontage eroded away, together with a serious loss of vegetation.

The report, Shifting Shores: Living with a Changing Coastline, also highlights the challenges potentially facing all of Northern Ireland's coastline in decades to come.

Likely changes in Northern Ireland's climate highlighted in the report include:
• Warmer annual temperatures
• Wetter winters and drier summers
• Sea level rises of between 85 and 100 cm by 2100
• Increased frequency of extreme storm surges and of extreme waves.

The National Trust director for Northern Ireland, Hilary McGrady, called for government help to protect the coastline.

"Our planning system and, in particular, development plans and planning policy statements must take predicted coastal change into account to ensure coastal landscapes are adequately protected in the future," she said.

Professor Julian Orford, from Queen's University, who led the research, said: "Northern Ireland's coastline will be a changing, and indeed challenging, environment in the 21st century. The National Trust and many other bodies must prepare now to meet the uncertain challenges ahead."

Search for "night time spinach" threatens wildlife, local livelihoods

From: WWF


Meat hungry refugees are sustaining a thriving wildlife poaching trade in Tanzania, according to a report by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

Wild meat, cooked after dark in the refugee camps of northern Tanzania, is called "night time spinach". Generally cheaper than beef and culturally more appetizing, poaching or trading wild meat is one of the few income earning opportunities available to refugees.

But the decimation of local wildlife in widening areas around camps is threatening the viability of established local non-refugee communities that traditionally supplemented their diet and income with wild foods.

“The scale of wild meat consumption in refugee camps has helped the international community to conceal its failure of meeting basic refugee needs,” said Dr George Jambiya, the main author of the "Night Time Spinach’ report.

“Relief agencies are turning a blind eye to the real cause of the poaching and illegal trade: a lack of meat protein in refugees’ rations.”

Sheer numbers of refugees often leads to extensive habitat degradation and dramatic loss of wildlife in affected areas, with rare species like chimpanzees threatened by the demand for meat. Populations of buffalo, sable antelope and other grazing animals have also shown steep declines.

Since Tanzanian independence in 1961, more than 20 major refugee camps have been located close to game reserves, national parks or other protected areas; 13 of them still remained in 2005. In the mid-1990s, an estimated 7.5 tons of illegal wild meat was consumed weekly in the two main refugee camps.

TRAFFIC says that refugees are doubly penalized: their rights to minimum humanitarian care are not always being met and their own attempts to meet them are criminalized. In contrast, humanitarian assistance to displaced populations in Croatia, Slovenia and Serbia during the early 1990s included the provision of corned beef.

“Something has to be wrong if refugees, who have run from guns in their home country, then find themselves fleeing wildlife rangers’ firearms in their search for food,” says Simon Milledge of TRAFFIC and an author of the report.

Conservation organizations believe the key is to supply meat from legal and sustainable wild meat supplies, as well as rigorous law enforcement on the ground.

“The sad reality is that those who most depend upon wild sources of food are usually the ones who pay the heaviest price for biodiversity loss,” says Dr Susan Lieberman, Director WWF’s International Species Programme. “WWF calls upon humanitarian agencies to provide for basic food security of refugees, including animal protein, to ensure a sustainable future for all.”

“The IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species shows that many of Sub-Saharan Africa’s wildlife species are threatened, with around 20 percent suffering recorded population declines from the wild meat trade,” said Dr Jane Smart, Head of the World Conservation Union (IUCN)’s Global Species Programme.

“Also the depletion of wildlife is likely to cause an overall loss of income as areas become devoid of species and of less interest to visitors, which may cause economic impacts as well as resentment by local people. ”

The report recommends closer partnerships between wildlife and humanitarian agencies, which have already showed progress to address other environmental impacts of refugee camps such as deforestation.

Arctic expedition cancelled after airship crashes


From: Reuters


PARIS (Reuters) - A major expedition to measure the thickness of the Arctic pack ice was cancelled on Tuesday after the mission's airship was torn from its moorings in southern France by gale-force winds and smashed into a house.

French explorer Jean-Louis Etienne had planned to depart on March 1 from Paris on a 10,000-kilometer (6,200 mile) voyage that was expected to provide a benchmark for monitoring the impact of global warming on the Polar Basin.

"The expedition is cancelled with this airship," a spokeswoman said.

"But Jean-Louis Etienne hopes to find another way of measuring the ice cap and perhaps he may put together another expedition," she added.

The project, sponsored by French oil group Total, had taken four years to prepare and cost 7 million euros ($10.15 million), half of which was spent on building the specially designed, helium-filled airship.

Etienne's scientific mission was due to take him from the Barents Sea to Spitsbergen, the magnetic North Pole and Beaufort Sea and reach Alaska in May.

No one was injured in Tuesday's accident, when a gust of wind lifted the airship off its mast and took it 30 meters (100 ft) into the air before throwing it down into a house.

(Reporting by Marie Maitre and Astrid Wendlandt; editing by Crispian Balmer and Ralph Boulton)

China's energy policies 'do not tackle climate change'

From: , Science and Development Network, More from this Affiliate


[BEIJING] China's economic, energy and environment policies have not been streamlined to fight climate change, according to a new study.

Carmen Richerzhagen and Imme Scholz from the German Development Institute reviewed China's recent climate-relevant policies and actions in a study published last month (3 December) in World Development.

They found that China has struggled hard to increase its energy efficiency but many of its policies, while contributing to climate change mitigation, have been motivated by cutting energy costs and increasing energy security — rather than cutting carbon emissions.

The Chinese government has set an ambitious target to reduce energy consumption per unit of the country's gross domestic product by 20 per cent of 2005 levels by 2010. But this objective has been dampened by low energy prices and a lack of market competition.

"Climate change is a cross-sectoral issue, but China considers it mainly as an economic issue," the authors write.

China — the world's second largest carbon emitter — has made no international commitments to cutting carbon emissions, and there are few incentives for it to do so, say the authors.

To deal with international pressure, China has formed the National Coordination Committee on Climate Change. The committee is headed by the prime minister, with the powerful National Reform and Development Commission the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and 13 other ministries and agencies as members.

But the central government's moves to reduce carbon consumption are challenged by local political autonomy and regional complexity, as well as a lack of policy coordination.

In addition, public awareness of the climate change problem is lacking and the influence of nongovernmental sectors — such as the science community, civil society, media, and donors — is limited.

The authors suggest that China should enhance its capacity to deal with climate change by increasing policy coordination between different sectors and mobilising more actors — such as civil society organisations and the scientific community — in the fight against climate change.

Zhuang Guiyang, a senior researcher at the Research Centre for Sustainable Development at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, agrees that it is important to increase China's capacities to cope with climate change.

"But in the current development stage, at which China does not have emission reduction obligations, it could be better to coordinate various efforts under the goal of saving energy," he told SciDev.Net.

Reference: World Development doi 10.1016/j.worlddev.2007.06.010 (2007)


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