Friday, May 9, 2008

Ocean currents may offset global warming over coming decade

This article was first published on on Thursday May 01 2008.

Global warming is set to stall over the next 10 years as natural variations in ocean currents counteract manmade climate change.

Researchers modelling the climate of Europe and North America found that a major ocean current that brings warm water northwards is set to weaken, potentially offsetting temperature rises caused by human activity.

A team led by Noel Keenlyside at the Leibniz Institute for Marine Science in Germany focused on an ocean current known as the meridional overturning current or MOC. The current acts as a huge conveyor belt, bringing warm water into the North Atlantic and returning cold water to the south.

Scientists believe the ocean current strengthens and weakens on a natural cycle with a 70 to 80-year period. When the current is strong, it brings warmer water and a milder climate to northern regions.

The team's models, which were checked against historical temperature changes, suggest the current will weaken enough to cool the North Atlantic, while temperatures in the tropical Pacific are unlikely to change.

The study appears in the journal Nature today.

"Our results show that global mean temperatures may plateau or cool weakly over the next 10 years because of natural fluctuations, but in the long term temperatures will continue to rise," said Dr Keenlyside. "This doesn't change the bottom line on global warming."

Reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest carbon emissions could drive global temperatures up by as much as 0.2C each decade.

Surge in fatal shark attacks blamed on global warming

This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday May 04 2008 on p34 of the World news section. I

Three decades have passed since the movie Jaws sent terrified bathers scrambling out of the ocean. But as any beach lifeguard knows, there's still nothing like a gory shark attack to stoke public hysteria and paranoia.

Two deaths in the waters off California and Mexico last week and a spate of shark-inflicted injuries to surfers off Florida's Atlantic coast have left beachgoers seeking an explanation for a sudden surge in the number of strikes.

In the first four months of this year, there were four fatal shark attacks worldwide, compared with one in the whole of 2007, according to the International Shark Attack File at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

'The one thing that's affecting shark attacks more than anything else is human activity,' said Dr George Burgess of Florida University, a shark expert who maintains the database. 'As the population continues to rise, so does the number of people in the water for recreation. And as long as we have an increase in human hours in the water, we will have an increase in shark bites.'

Some experts suggest that an abundance of seals has attracted high numbers of sharks, while others believe that overfishing has hit their food chain. 'I'm not saying it doesn't happen, but it's a convenient excuse,' Burgess said. Another contributory factor to the location of shark attacks could be global warming and rising sea temperatures. 'You'll find that some species will begin to appear in places they didn't in the past with some regularity,' he said.

New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is called the shark attack capital of the world. It has had more recorded incidents per square mile than any beach on Earth. So far this year there have been 10 attacks on surfers, including three in three days last week, although officials say most of the wounded were able to make their own way to hospital.

'It's more like a vicious dog bite, half a dozen stitches, a few bandages, that sort of thing,' said Scott Petersohn, a captain with the Volusia County Beach Patrol, which covers 47 miles of coastline including New Smyrna Beach.

'The sharks that inflict the most damage here, the black tips, can be about two or three feet long. There are some bigger ones along our coast, tiger sharks and bull sharks, but there's a sustainable food supply for them. People are not on the menu for sharks.'

At Solano Beach, California, where 66-year-old David Martin was killed last week by a great white shark estimated to be 4.5 metres long, and off the Mexican coast near Acapulco, where 25-year-old American tourist Adrian Ruiz fell victim to a suspected tiger shark, there were conflicting claims.

Meanwhile, the wildlife protection group Wildcoast has accused the Mexican authorities of 'international shark hysteria' over the slaughter of at least 10 near the beach at Troncones on the Pacific coast where Ruiz died. A navy spokesman said a 200-metre line with baited hooks was set up to catch any sharks threatening the beach.

'They more than likely had nothing to do with the attack. Since sharks are threatened in Mexico, this is the worst type of vengeance security imaginable,' said Aida Navarro, the group's wildlife conservation programme manager.

'It's the equivalent of stepping on to the plains of the Serengeti when you step into the water,' Burgess said. 'It's not like a swimming pool. This is a wilderness experience and with it comes a certain amount of risk.

'What's needed is some kind of system to prevent people and sharks coming together in a dangerous way.'

Koalas Under Threat From Climate Change

From: Australian Academy of Science


New research shows increased temperatures and carbon dioxide levels are a threat to the Australian national icon, the koala.

Professor Ian Hume, Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, and his students from the University of Sydney have been researching the effects of CO2 increases and temperature rises on eucalypts.

Professor Hume's group have shown in the laboratory that increases in CO2 affect the level of nutrients and 'anti-nutrients' (things that are either toxic or interfere with the digestion of nutrients) in eucalypt leaves. Anti-nutrients in eucalypts are built from carbon and an increase in carbon dioxide levels will favour the production of anti-nutrients over nutrients.

Koalas are fussy about the species of eucalypts that they eat as different species contain different ratios of nutrients to anti-nutrients. Some eucalypt species may have high protein content, but anti-nutrients such as tannins bind the protein so it can't be used by the koala.

He said: 'If there is a significant rise in CO2 concentration in the atmosphere, which we're already seeing, that's going to push the ratio of nutrients to anti-nutrients even lower by increasing the concentration of these carbon-based anti-nutrients.

'What currently may be good koala habitat may well become, over a period of not so many years at the rate that CO2 concentrations are rising, very marginal habitat...

'I'm sure we'll see koalas disappearing from their current range even though we don't see any change in tree species or structure of the forests.'

When asked how long it would take for koalas to be affected, he said: 'I would've thought a few years ago when we first did these experiments that you might see something in a hundred years, but at the rate at which things are going I suspect that we might see changes within our lifetimes.'

Changes in eucalypt nutrient content may force koalas to travel in search of more nutrient-rich species. With habitats fragmented by roads and agriculture, more koalas will travel by land, which increases their risk of being hit by vehicles or eaten by predators.

Higher temperatures could also affect eucalypt species. Some are so sensitive to temperature that even a one degree shift in mean annual temperature will affect them. These sensitive species could then be outcompeted by others which are less sensitive to temperature.

If these less temperature sensitive species aren't suitable for koala feed then '...we're not seeing anything in terms of the forest disappearing, but in terms of nutritional habitat, it has disappeared.'

When asked if koalas could adapt to changes in nutrient levels, he said: 'I don't think they've got enough time to do that, nowhere near enough time to do that.'

Professor Hume's group have been studying the four marsupials that eat eucalypt foliage with the koala being the most highly specialised. The others are the greater glider, common ringtail possum, and common brushtail possum.

By comparing the responses all four species make to dietary changes, a larger picture of the state of the environmental system can be formed.

This research was presented at the Academy of Science's peak event, Science at the Shine Dome, April 24, 2008.

Sahara dried out slowly, not abruptly: study

From: Reuters


By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

OSLO (Reuters) - The once-green Sahara turned to desert over thousands of years rather than in an abrupt shift as previously believed, according to a study on Thursday that may help understanding of future climate changes.

And there are now signs of a tiny shift back towards greener conditions in parts of the Sahara, apparently because of global warming, said the lead author of the report about the desert's history published in the journal Science.

The study of ancient pollen, spores and aquatic organisms in sediments in Lake Yoa in northern Chad showed the region gradually shifted from savannah 6,000 years ago towards the arid conditions that took over about 2,700 years ago.

The findings, about one of the biggest environmental shifts of the past 10,000 years, challenge past belief based on evidence in marine sediments that a far quicker change created the world's biggest hot desert.

"The hypothesis (of a sudden shift) was astonishing but it was still taken up," said Stefan Kropelin of the University of Cologne in Germany, lead author of the study with scientists in Belgium, Canada, the United States, Sweden and France.

The scientists, studying the remote 3.5 sq km (1.4 sq mile) Lake Yoa, found the region had once had grasses and scattered acacia trees, ferns and herbs. The salty lake is renewed by groundwater welling up from beneath the desert.

A gradual drying, blamed on shifts in monsoon rains linked to shifts in the power of the sun, meant large amounts of dust started blowing in the region about 4,300 years ago. The Sahara now covers an area the size of the United States.


Kropelin told Reuters that improved understanding of the formation of the Sahara might help climate modellers improve forecasts of what is in store from global warming, blamed by the U.N. Climate Panel on human emissions of greenhouse gases.

The panel says that some areas will be more vulnerable to drought, others to more storms or floods.

The Sahara got greener when temperatures rose around the end of the Ice Age about 12,000 years ago. Warmer air can absorb more moisture from the oceans and it fell as rain far inland.

"Today I think we have the same thing going on, a global warming," he said. And he said there were already greener signs in a huge area with almost no reliable weather records.

"I see a clear trend to a new greening of the Sahara, a very slow one," he said, based on visits to some of the remotest and uninhabited parts of the desert over the past two decades.

"You go to unoccupied areas over a long time and you know there was pure sand there without a single snake or scorpion. Now you see tens of kilometers covered by grass," he said.

In Darfur in Sudan, where U.N. officials say 300,000 people may have died in five years of revolt, slightly higher rainfall was more than offset by a rise in the human population to 7 million from 1 million half a century ago. People and their animals quickly eradicated any greenery.

-- For Reuters latest environment blogs click on:

(Editing by Alison Williams)

Are Myanmar’s Storm Victims Suffering Needlessly?

From: , Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate


As the floodwaters of Cyclone Nargis began to recede from Myanmar's low-lying Irrawaddy Delta this week, at least one regional leader was quick to note that this devastating disaster could have been partially prevented through coastal preservation.

Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), mentioned in an address in Singapore that expanding coastal populations and widespread mangrove degradation played key roles in worsening the cyclone's impact. "The mangrove forests, which used to serve as buffer between the rising tide, between big waves and storms and the residential area... all those lands have been destroyed," Agence France-Presse reported him saying. "Human beings are now direct victims of such natural forces."

Mangrove forests, salt-tolerant trees and shrubs found mainly in intertidal areas of the tropics, provide critical breeding grounds and habitat for many plants and animals, including several high-value fish species. Ever since the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami that devastated parts of Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Thailand, mangroves have received greater attention for their potential role in protecting coastlines against storm surges. But their role as coastal guardians-including in places like the Irrawaddy Delta-is still disputed within the scientific community.

Of the 100,000 people who Myanmar officials say have perished or face imminent death if they do not receive humanitarian aid in the wake of the May 2 cyclone, many built their homes in areas once covered with mangrove forests. Myanmar has some of the highest remaining forest area in Southeast Asia, but the government junta has often encouraged converting mangroves to shrimp aquacultures or rice fields. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that Myanmar lost about 9 percent of its mangrove forests-48,500 hectares-between 1980 and 2005.

Mangrove roots hold together the shifting silt and other debris that flows down a delta and shapes coastal landscapes. By deterring erosion, mangroves prevent the debris from washing inland and damaging agricultural land. "It's pretty...clear, looking around the world, that it is generally accepted that mangroves help stop erosion and protect coastland," said Marc Spalding, a senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy.

Mangrove branches and roots may also reduce the surging energy of a massive storm wave as it approaches inland. "There are lots of structures that add friction to the movement of water through this fringing mangrove forest," said Ivan Valiela, a marine biologist with Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.

But to effectively study the role of mangroves in slowing wave action, researchers need to compare a severely damaged mangrove coast with a similar mangrove coast that was not heavily affected. This has proven to be a major limitation and has prevented scientific consensus, said Valiela, editor of the journal Estuarine, Coastal, and Shelf Science.

Finn Danielsen, a senior ecologist with the Nordic Agency for Development and Ecology who has researched the protective power of mangroves during the Asian tsunami, said computer simulations have accurately measured the effect of mangroves. "There is no doubt that mangroves could have absorbed some of the energy of Hurricane Nargis," he said. "It is true that other factors also play a role, but this does not mean that the role of coastal tree vegetation is smaller."

Tom Smith, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, considers himself one of the world's few researchers who challenges whether mangroves affect a wave's forces. Data on the subject is "scant and meager," Smith said. He considers studies that have relied upon computer simulations, satellite imagery, and field studies all to be flawed.

Smith concedes that many researchers are uncomfortable with his conclusions, due to concerns that this may slow the momentum of ongoing mangrove conservation efforts. But, he said, more emphasis should instead be placed on relocating people farther inland, which would protect them from dangerous oceanic storms and also help preserve mangrove forests.

According to the United Nations, nearly half of the world's population lives within 150 kilometers of a coast, and more are projected to move there in coming years due to population growth and tourism. Myanmar is no exception to this trend. The recent cyclone flooded the city of Yangôn, home to more than 4 million people, as well as several other cities of between 100,000 and 500,000 people. "Poorly constructed homes in low-lying, incredibly exposed areas... It's just set-up for this sort of disaster," Smith said.

Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute who covers everything environmental for Eye on Earth. He can be reached at

Dying bats in the Northeast remain a mystery

From: United States Geological Survey


Investigations continue into the cause of a mysterious illness that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of bats since March 2008. At more than 25 caves and mines in the northeastern U.S, bats exhibiting a condition now referred to as “white-nosed syndrome” have been dying.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) recently issued a Wildlife Health Bulletin, advising wildlife and conservation officials throughout the U.S. to be on the lookout for the condition known as “white-nose syndrome” and to report suspected cases of the disease.

USGS wildlife disease specialist Dr. Kimberli Miller advises that "anyone finding sick or dead bats should avoid handling them and should contact their state wildlife conservation agency or the nearest U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service field office to report their observation.”

Large-scale wildlife mortality events should be reported to the USGS at

The USGS National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis. has received nearly 100 bat carcasses mostly from New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. The syndrome affects species including the little brown, big brown, northern long-eared and eastern pipistrelle bats.

The condition was first observed in February 2007 in caves near Albany, N.Y. by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Dead and hibernating bats had a white substance on their heads and wings. In early 2008, “white-nosed” bats were once again seen at hibernation sites.

Scientists have collected environmental samples from affected caves and mines in Vermont, New York and Massachusetts in an effort to determine the cause of the deaths. Live, dead and dying bats were documented in and outside of hibernation sites.

The most common findings in the bats have been emaciation and poor body condition. Many of the bats examined had little or no body fat; some exhibited changes in the lung that have been difficult to characterize; and a majority had microscopic fungi on their bodies.

The white substance observed on some bats may represent an overgrowth of normal fungal colonizers of bat skin during hibernation and could be an indicator of overall poor health, rather than a primary pathogen. Scientists from a variety of agencies are investigating underlying environmental factors, potential secondary microbial pathogens and toxicants as possible causes.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Burma seeks emergency aid as cyclone kills at least 10,000

At least 1 million homeless in worst disaster to hit east Asia since tsunami

This article appeared in the Guardian on Tuesday May 06 2008 on p1 of the Top stories section.
A monk makes his way past a fallen tree following the cyclone in Burma

A monk makes his way past a fallen tree following the cyclone in Burma. Photograph Barry Broman/AP

An international relief effort was mobilising last night after Burma's military rulers estimated that 10,000 people had been killed in a cyclone at the weekend and acknowledged they were willing to accept foreign help.

Aid workers believe at least 1 million people have been left homeless by Cyclone Nargis, which barrelled across south-west and central Burma on Saturday, unleashing 120mph (190kmph) winds, torrential rains and flooding that caused a catastrophic trail of destruction.

The reclusive military government initially said casualties ran into the hundreds, but dramatically revised the toll yesterday.

The foreign minister, Nyan Win, told diplomats the number of dead could reach 10,000, with at least 3,000 still missing, making it the worst natural disaster in east Asia since the 2004 tsunami.

Andrew Kirkwood, country director of Save the Children, whose teams began distributing aid, said: "Older people I've spoken to in Yangon [Rangoon] say this is the worst storm they've seen in the 60 years they've been alive. Everyone recognises this was unprecedented."

The worst-affected areas in the Irrawaddy delta have still to be reached, but several towns were completely flattened and many villages along the coast were covered in mud when the storm surge subsided.

In one delta town alone, Bogalay, 2,879 people were missing, fuelling fears that the numbers could rise dramatically.

Save the Children estimated that in the outlying area of Rangoon where it works, between 50,000 and 100,000 people had no shelter after their flimsy homes were wrecked.

"I think more than 1 million people could be homeless very easily," said Kirkwood, speaking from Rangoon. "There are 7 million living in the Irrawaddy delta area and it has been hugely affected with 90% to 95% of houses destroyed in some places."

The scale of the destruction is so immense that ministers in the Burmese regime, always intensely suspicious of international aid agencies, asked for outside assistance, a move the government shunned even during the 2004 tsunami.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said it had been given a "careful green light" and added that the UN was now working out how to deliver aid to the country as quickly as possible.

"The government indicated willingness to accept international assistance through the UN agencies," said WFP spokesman Paul Risley. "I'd say it was a careful green light."

Clean drinking water is a pressing need, particularly in Rangoon, a city of 6 million, where those without wells are in desperate need after supplies were cut. Effective sanitation is also needed to prevent the spread of disease and life-threatening diarrhoea.

Aid agencies already on the ground in Burma began distributing food, plastic sheeting, buckets, cooking utensils and water purification tablets yesterday. But the UN office in Rangoon said there was an urgent need for more plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, health kits and food.

Neighbouring Thailand responded by sending nine tonnes of medicines and food by military transport to Rangoon's international airport, which reopened yesterday.

India, which maintained close relations with the Burmese government throughout last year's political crisis, said two navy ships from Port Blair would sail immediately for Rangoon carrying food, tents, blankets, clothing and medicine.

The cyclone struck at a time when the regime is under intense international pressure to democratise following the widespread suppression of street protests last year. The ruling junta blamed the protests on foreign interference.

A British foreign office minister, Meg Munn, issued a statement saying: "The priority must be to mobilise aid to all those affected to avoid further suffering. We call on the Burmese regime to provide rapid support to its people and to accept international assistance."

The European Union said it would provide €2 million (£1.57m) in urgent humanitarian aid for the cyclone victims.

"With every hour that passes, the news coming out of Myanmar [Burma] gets grimmer and grimmer," said the development commissioner, Louis Michel. "This is a terrible catastrophe that demands a quick and effective humanitarian response."

Residents of Rangoon, including groups of monks, joined forces during the day in an effort to clear the roads of downed trees and telegraph poles.

Traffic in the city was described as "horrendous" because most of the roads were reduced to narrow arteries by debris, but at least it afforded an opportunity to get aid to outlying areas.

Electricity remained cut off in most of the city, forcing people to queue to buy candles which, along with other foodstuffs and supplies, have increased in price dramatically.

Aid workers were concerned that without access to water people in the city were washing in the lakes, where the supply was already considered a health hazard.

"In the city the main problem, absolutely, is water," said Kirkwood. "In the urban areas, the water is less of a problem. But people without shelter are gathering in schools, monasteries and temples where sanitation is the worry. We've examples of 1,000 and 1,500 altogether."

Last night an exiled political prisoners' group said Burmese soldiers and police had killed 36 inmates of Rangoon's notorious Insein jail after a riot started in the wake of cyclone.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma said that after the storm had ripped off cell roofs, 1,000 inmates had been herded into a hall and the doors were locked. The prisoners lit a fire inside the hall, but panic ensued when the hall filled with smoke and riot police and soldiers called in to quell the commotion opened fire, killing 36 and wounding 70.

However, the regime yesterday signalled that it would press ahead with Saturday's referendum on the draft constitution despite the turmoil.

Water looms as “The Next Oil,” warns MIT Sloan professor

From: MIT Sloan School of Management


By Sarah Slaughter

With U.S. gasoline prices edging toward the recently unimaginable price of $4 a gallon, consumers are beginning to drive less and energy efficiency is again a hot topic. But the pain caused by high oil prices is nothing like what looms as an even more basic and essential natural commodity — water -- faces dwindling supplies and growing demand. As essential as it is taken for granted, water is The Next Oil.

It’s one thing not to be able to afford gas for the family car. People may be inconvenienced and face budget challenges, but few have to drive to survive. But water is absolutely critical for personal and public health, which is why governments have always subsidized its cost. Consumers directly pay only a fraction of the real cost of the clean drinking water that comes out of their faucets. Indeed, water is so plentiful and its delivery and quality so automatic that most people in the developed world feel as though it is free. The enormous expense of building, maintaining and operating water systems is often as invisible as H2O itself.

But for a variety of reasons national and international attention is increasing about the vulnerability of water systems and the subsequent impacts on public health and welfare, business and commerce. Both locally in metro Atlanta and northern Georgia, and in more and more regions across the globe, drought conditions have been exacerbated if not created by increased population density and land development, which, in turn, may have been made even worse by global warming, resulting in record-setting droughts. One recent report on the human impact on oceans found that we are now using much more water than can be replenished. We are also dumping chemicals, compounds and other waste into the system faster than the system can clean it out again. On parts of the U.S. west coast, water has been so heavily contaminated with pharmaceutical runoffs that people have been told not to drink it, even though it has gone through treatment processes.

Skyrocketing energy prices have forced public and private response, and the same is beginning to happen with water. Public utilities are discussing how to restructure water rates to better reflect true costs without causing public harm. And the price of water is increasing; according to a recent study by NUS Consulting, municipal water has increased by more than 25 percent in price in the United States in the last five years and by more than 10 percent in Australia in just one year. Public and private users are looking internally to reduce water and discharges of contaminants into water supply systems. In 2003, for example, the Pacific Institute estimated that one-third of California’s urban water could be saved with existing technology for less than it cost to develop new sources of supply.

While such steps are clearly important, the best hope to deal with the looming water crisis may be companies looking to innovation as the means to add value not only to their bottom line, but to society at large. As water service organizations seek the most effective means to supply and protect this critical resource for their communities, they also see a significant market opportunity. For this key piece of the sustainability challenge, smart corporate thinking can also be good public policy and good business.

Water Health International, for example, uses an ultraviolet treatment technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to provide clean drinking water to small and large communities around the world. Under its unique approach, the company provides water treatment services, rather than the equipment itself, and helps each community create a set of trained professionals to operate and maintain the system. The company also provides loans for the communities to pay off the system costs over time.

This is the kind of thinking and response we need. We once assumed that water is free, air is free and power is cheap. The latter is clearly no longer true and we are increasingly realizing the truth about water. Now is the time to make water the next opportunity for smart innovation— not just the next oil.

MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Sarah Slaughter is Vice Chair of the Committee on Sustainability Infrastructure in the National Research Council, which addresses key challenges in the nation’s water, transportation, energy, communications, and waste management infrastructures.

Environmentalists divided about burying CO2

From: Reuters


OSLO (Reuters) - Greenpeace and more than 100 other environmental groups denounced projects for burying industrial greenhouse gases on Monday, exposing splits in the green movement about whether such schemes can slow global warming.

Many governments and some environmental organizations such as the WWF want companies to capture heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the exhausts of power plants and factories and then entomb them in porous rocks as one way to curb climate change.

But Greenpeace issued a 44-page report about the technology entitled "False Hope".

"Carbon capture and storage is a scam. It is the ultimate coal industry pipe dream," said Emily Rochon, climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace International and author of the report.

Greenpeace and 112 green groups from 21 nations said governments should invest in wind, solar and other renewable energies rather than in capture technologies that would allow coal-fired power plants to stay in operation.

In a statement linked to the report, Greenpeace and allies including Friends of the Earth International said the "false promise" of carbon capture and storage (CCS) "risks locking the world into an energy future that fails to save the climate".

But some other environmental groups accept carbon capture as a way to slow rising temperatures and avert more powerful storms, heatwaves, droughts, disrupted monsoon rains and raised world ocean levels.

"Carbon capture and storage is not an ideal solution, but it buys us time," said Stephan Singer, head of the WWF's European Climate and Energy Program in Brussels. "We believe it is part of the solution -- an emergency exit."

The U.N. Climate Panel has said CCS could be one of the main ways for slowing climate change by 2100 -- contributing a bigger share of greenhouse gas cuts than energy efficiency, a shift to renewable energy or a push for nuclear power.


Singer said China was opening one or two coal-fired power plants a week and, with a lifetime of 40 years, the world needed ways to retrofit plants to capture emissions rather than expect Beijing to close them down.

Greenpeace said carbon capture technology was largely unproven, could not be deployed on a large scale before 2030, was expensive and brought risks of leaks. It said it would mean electricity price hikes of between 21 and 91 percent.

But Oslo-based environmental group Bellona said 34 CCS projects were being planned in Europe alone. "If you exclude CCS in the battle against climate change, you don't take global warming seriously," said Bellona head Frederic Hauge.

Several national branches of Friends of the Earth did not sign up for the statement criticizing CCS.

"We believe that CCS will be an important tool to reduce emissions from existing coal and gas-fired power plants," said Lars Haltbrekken, head of Friends of the Earth Norway. "We don't support new coal-fired power plants, even with CCS."

Australia seen needing years of rain to end drought

From: Reuters


SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia needs several years of above average rain to end a drought that has devastated crops in three of the last six years, according to the latest report by the Bureau of Meterology.

The bureau said in its monthly drought statement on Monday that despite recent heavy rains over eastern Australia's main cropping lands, the drought was far from over, and had intensified in the outback.

"Several years of above average rainfall are required to remove the very long-term (water) deficits," said the bureau.

"The combination of record heat and widespread drought during the past five to 10 years over large parts of southern and eastern Australia is without historical precedent and is, at least partly, a result of climate change."

Australia's drought began to ease in late 2007 and in the first two months of 2008, leading private and government forecasters to predict a record or near-record wheat crop of 26-27 million tonnes in 2008/09, up from 13 million tonnes the year before.

However, dry weather has returned in the past two months.

Western Australian wheat growers have received enough rain to begin to plant their next crop, but farmers in eastern growing areas are still waiting for planting rain.

The bureau said that long and short-term rain deficiencies were persisting. A dry April meant the drought intensified in central Australia and long-term or two-year rainfall deficiencies had increased in most parts of Australia, except the southwest corner.

The bureau cited the main cropping lands of southeast Queensland, Victoria and western New South Wales as suffering long-term rain deficits.

"One exception was southwest WA (Western Australia) which had a wetter April this year so the 24-month deficits eased somewhat," it said of Australia's main wheat lands.

(Reporting by Michael Perry and Michael Byrnes)


"Manufactured Landscapes" SEE THIS BRILLIANT MOVIE! You'll never have the same shopping experience again.