Thursday, January 31, 2008

UK greenhouse gas emissions fall in 2006

From: Reuters

By Gerard Wynn

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain reversed previous estimates to say its emissions of climate-warming greenhouse gases fell in 2006, showing on Thursday that it was already nearing a self-imposed goal for 2025.

Britain says it is a world leader in the fight against global warming and is introducing legally binding targets to cut carbon emissions by 26-32 percent by 2025 and 60 percent by 2050 below 1990 levels.

Environmental groups have demanded that Britain toughen those 2025 and 2050 goals.

U.K. greenhouse gas emissions were more than 16 percent below 1990 levels in 2006, or 21 per cent below when calculated net of carbon trading whereby governments and companies count as their own cuts that they funded overseas.

But international aviation emissions rose while the commonest greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) was barely changed, down 0.1 percent.

"As a country we must do much more across the board," said Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, adding that the U.K. was on track to meet and go "well beyond" its Kyoto commitments.

Under the international Kyoto Protocol, Britain has to cut by 2012 its greenhouse gases to 12.5 percent below 1990 levels. Benn said Britain was taking steps to cut emissions further.

"That's why we're reforming the planning system to remove barriers to renewable energy and backing new nuclear power generation," said Benn.

Earlier this month, the government gave the green light to a new generation of low carbon-emitting nuclear power plants. The first new plants could come on line from 2017 at the earliest.


Emissions in 2006 of all six major greenhouse gases were equivalent to 652.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), of which CO2 accounted for 554.5 million tonnes.

But those numbers excluded international aviation and shipping. Countries do not report these under Kyoto.

Environment ministry data showed that in 2006 international flights in and out of Britain produced 35.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, based on UK fuel consumption, or 6.4 percent of total CO2, while international shipping produced 1.2 percent.

British international aviation emissions rose 1.5 percent in 2006 while domestic aviation fell 2.8 percent, the environment ministry said in a statement.

Total national greenhouse gas emissions estimates fall if calculated net of emissions permits that companies buy from overseas to help them meet limits imposed by the European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme.

But in 2006 European industry overall got more emissions permits than they needed meaning that those permits were not necessarily linked to any emissions cut.

(Reporting by Gerard Wynn, Editing by Peter Blackburn)

Brazil unable to curb Amazon destruction

From: Reuters

By Raymond Colitt

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's government is unwilling and unable to halt destruction in the Amazon rainforest despite emergency measures it announced last week to curb rising deforestation, environmental experts say.

High commodity prices and increased land use elsewhere in Brazil are driving ranchers and farmers deeper into the Amazon in search of cheap land, environmentalists say.

Between August and December last year, 7,000 square km (2,703 square miles), or two-thirds the annual rate, were chopped down.

In response, the government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva banned logging and cut farm credits in the 36 municipalities with the highest deforestation rate. It also said it would ban farm products from illegally deforested areas and would register property deeds to prevent land theft.

"We are convinced if we play all our cards we can reduce deforestation in 2008 as well," Environment Minister Marina Silva said.

In the two years through July 2007, the rate had fallen by 50 percent.

But environmentalists said the measures were half-hearted and insufficient and some could even increase deforestation.

"It's a positive first step, but only a drop in the ocean," said Paulo Moutinho, coordinator at the Environmental Research Institute of the Amazon.

Applying restrictive measures where deforestation already occurred would force loggers and ranchers to neighboring municipalities, said Roberto Smeraldi, head of Friends of the Earth in Brazil.


"The government is following, not anticipating, deforestation -- these measures could fan the fire," Smeraldi told Reuters.

It is the third time in four years the government pledged to sort out property titles and this time it is focusing only on 36 municipalities, Smeraldi said.

"Loggers are celebrating in towns left off the hook -- the government has a terrible enforcement track record," he said.

Only 2 percent to 3 percent of fines imposed on illegal loggers are collected, says Paulo Barreto, senior researcher with Imazon, a think tank promoting sustainable development in the Amazon.

Critics say much of the government favors economic development over conservation in the Amazon and does not back the proposed measures.

"Marina (Silva) is a lone voice," Barreto said.

While it sends more troops and cartographers to curb logging, the government is promoting deforestation through large infrastructure and mining projects, roads, as well as settlements for landless peasants, Smeraldi said.

A proposed hydroelectric plant on the Rio Madeira could attract 100,000 settlers to the region.

"The government raises a red flag with the left hand and chops trees with the right," Smeraldi said.

Lula, the military and other nationalists frequently complain about foreigners meddling in the Amazon.

"Those (foreign) NGO's (nongovernmental organizations) should go plant trees in their own countries," Lula said on Wednesday.

Ranchers and farmers will continue cutting trees to create pasture or farmland as long as it is cheaper than recovering degraded land, the experts said.

"Government and agriculture need to tackle the underlying economics of deforestation, to radically rethink their approach to the Amazon, if nothing else, out of self-interest," Moutinho said.

Scientists see looming water crisis in western U.S.

From: Reuters


By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A water supply crisis is looming in the western United States thanks to human-caused climate change that already has altered the region's river flows, snow pack and air temperatures, scientists said.

Trends over the past half century foreshadow a worsening decline in water, perhaps the region's most valuable natural resource, even as population and demand expands in western states, researchers led by a scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography wrote in the journal Science on Thursday.

Up to 60 percent of changes in three key factors affecting the West's water cycle -- river flow, winter air temperatures and snow pack -- are due to human-caused climate change, they determined using multiple computer models and data analysis.

"Our results are not good news for those living in the western United States," wrote the team led by Tim Barnett, a climate expert at Scripps Institution, part of the University of California at San Diego.

"It foretells of water shortages, lack of storage capability to meet seasonally changing river flow, transfers of water from agriculture to urban uses and other critical impacts."

Barnett said computer models point to a looming crisis in water supply in the coming two decades.

It has been clear for some time that the climate has been changing in the western United States, and the question was whether it was due to natural variability or driven by climate change related to human-produced greenhouse gases and aerosols, the scientists said.


While the western United States has experienced natural wet and dry cycles in the past, current water flow trends differ in length and strength from past natural variations, the scientists found. The changes match those expected from the impacts of human activity on climate.

The researchers tracked water flows in three major western river systems -- Columbia, Colorado and Sacramento/San Joaquin rivers.

Changes over the past half century have meant less snow pack and more rain in the mountains, rivers with greatly reduced flows by summer and overall drier summers in the region, they noted.

"At this point in time, there's not much we can do to change that," said Barnett, who worked with experts at the U.S. government's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of Washington in Seattle and the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Japan.

"We're going to have to adapt our infrastructure and some of our societal needs to fit the way the world is changing," Barnett said in a telephone interview.

"Water shortages throughout the west, hydroelectric power reductions, heat waves -- the whole litany of things that go with global warming."

Another group of researchers, writing in the same journal, said leaders who set water policies worldwide must take climate change into account when planning for the future.

Until now, water policies have relied on the premise that historical water patterns could be counted on to continue. But human-induced changes to Earth's climate have begun to shift the averages and the extremes for rainfall, snowfall, evaporation and stream flows, Christopher Milly of the U.S. Geological Survey and colleagues said.

"Our best current estimates are that water availability will increase substantially in northern Eurasia, Alaska, Canada and some tropical regions, and decrease substantially in southern Europe, the Middle East, southern Africa and southwestern North America," Milly said in a statement.

(Editing by Maggie Fox)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Officials warn of salmon population "collapse"

(01-29) 12:14 PST San Francisco (AP) --

The number of chinook salmon returning to California's Central Valley reached a near-record low last year, pointing to an "unprecedented collapse" that could lead to severe restrictions on West Coast salmon fishing this year, according to federal fishery regulators.

The sharp drop in chinook or "king" salmon returning from the Pacific Ocean to spawn in the Sacramento River and its tributaries this past fall is part of broader decline in wild salmon runs in rivers across the West.

Regulators are still trying to understand the reasons for the shrinking number of spawners; some scientists believe it's related to changes in the ocean linked to global warming.

Only about 90,000 returning adult salmon were counted in the Central Valley in 2007, the second lowest number on record, according to an internal memo sent to members of the Pacific Fishery Management Council and obtained by The Associated Press. That's down from about 277,000 in 2006 and an all-time high of 804,000 just five years ago.

In an e-mail to council members, Donald McIsaac, the agency's executive director, said he wanted to give them "an early alert to what at this point appears to be an unprecedented collapse in the abundance of adult California Central Valley ... fall Chinook salmon stocks."

"The magnitude of the low abundance ... is such that the opening of all marine and freshwater fisheries impacting this important salmon stock will be questioned," he said.

It's only the second time in 35 years that the Central Valley has not met the agency's conservation goal of 122,000 to 180,000 returning fish, according to the council, which regulates Pacific Coast fisheries.

More worrisome is that only about 2,000 2-year-old juvenile chinooks — used to predict returns of adult spawners in the coming season — returned to the Central Valley last year, by far the lowest number ever counted. On average, about 40,000 juveniles or "jacks" return each year.

Salmon that spawn in Central Valley rivers form the backbone of the West Coast's commercial and recreational salmon fishery and are caught by fisherman as far north as British Columbia,

"Sacramento fish are really what the fishery depends on," said Chuck Tracy, who heads the council's salmon technical team. "When Central Valley fish are low it gets really hard to catch fish even if you're given the opportunity."

The council plans to meet in Sacramento in March to discuss possible restrictions on the salmon season that begins in May. Final decisions will be made at its meeting in Seattle in April.


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