Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Midwest storms leave 1 dead

MOSCOW, Indiana (AP) -- Thunderstorms in the Midwest led to a drowning in West Virginia and battered parts of Indiana with tornadoes, one of which damaged several homes, authorities said Wednesday.


A tornado damaged homes and downed trees and power lines in the Indiana community of Moscow late Tuesday.

One person died in flooding caused by thunderstorms during the night in West Virginia; that person's name wasn't immediately available.

One tornado late Tuesday ripped Moscow, Indiana, a community of about 80 residents about 35 miles southeast of Indianapolis. It destroyed one house, damaged four or five others and knocked down trees and utility lines, officials said. State officials said another house was destroyed in Greene County, Indiana.

One woman was in critical condition after being impaled in the upper chest by a 3-inch-diameter tree limb, said Charles Smith, chief of the Posey Township Volunteer Fire Department. He helped rescue her from storm debris.

"Her house was gone, along the side of the river bank. There's nothing left of it," he said. "She didn't talk, but she was moaning. I just hope she makes it."

The twister late Tuesday also destroyed a 19th-century covered bridge and ripped the top floor and roof from an old four-story brick schoolhouse.

Another tornado damaged 40 buildings at the Indiana National Guard's Camp Atterbury, about 25 miles south of Indianapolis. Two soldiers suffered minor injuries as they sought shelter, camp spokesman Capt. Greg Lundeberg said.

More than 2,000 troops are at the camp, including a Marine unit training for deployment to Iraq, and the tornado skipped over buildings where they were sleeping, Lundeberg said.

More thunderstorms streamed across the Midwest on Wednesday and the National Weather Service issued severe thunderstorm warnings for parts of Ohio and West Virginia, with tornado watches for sections of Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and the western tip of Maryland.

Flash flood warnings were in effect for parts of Indiana. The weather service said as much as 5 inches of rain had fallen in 24 hours an additional 1.5 inches of rain was possible.

Authorities closed roads into Moscow on Wednesday as heavy rain and lightning continued. Many nearby roads and fields were flooded and others were strewn with downed power lines, fallen tree limbs and other debris.

Flash flooding was reported in parts of Indiana on Wednesday and firefighters in Randolph County had been out since 4 a.m. rescuing people, Sheriff Jay Harris said. Most roads in the county's southern half were closed except for emergency vehicles

"We've had to pluck probably 10 to ... 20 people out of vehicles, out of their houses," Harris said. "We've had to rescue some livestock this morning."

In Ohio, weather service meteorologist Andy Hatzos in Wilmington said countless funnel clouds had been reported by early Wednesday, but no tornadoes had been confirmed.


Rain fell at a rate of 2 inches an hour in parts of Ohio, the weather service said. Flooding was reported in several communities around Dayton. About 24,000 Duke Energy customers in the Cincinnati area lost power but most were back on line Wednesday, the company said.

Farther west, flames and smoke were visible for miles Wednesday in Kansas City, Kansas, as firefighters allowed a huge fire to burn itself out in a gasoline storage tank that was struck by lightning late Tuesday.

Situation report: Drought in Ethiopia - 23 May 2008

WFP faces an immediate pipeline break of over 38,000 MT of corn-soya blend (CSB) for both relief and targeted supplementary feeding programmes due to lack of resources.

UNICEF estimates that 176,000 children are in need of urgent therapeutic care for severe malnutrition. Countrywide, 6 million children under the age of five require immediate preventative health and nutrition interventions to prevent a further surge in malnutrition rates.

UNICEF reports 15,000 children with SAM in Oromiya and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR) are currently receiving Theaputic Feeding Program support. The rate of new admissions remains high. Emerging areas of potential crisis are still being reported. In particular woredas of concern that emerged over the past week are Guro Gutu and Kersa Woredas, East Hararghe Zone, Kedida Gamille woreda in Kambatta Tenbaro Zone SNNPR.

UNICEF estimates that US$50 million is required for life-saving health, nutrition, water and sanitation interventions. UNICEF requires US$20 million for emergency nutrition and US$30 million is required to finance measles vaccination campaign, emergency water trucking and sanitation, control of diarrheal diseases and outreach health/nutrition interventions. To date, only US$6 million has been received.

UNICEF requires 2,000 MT of Plumpy’nut for emergency nutrition interventions for the coming three-to-four months.

The Humanitarian Response Fund has approved a grant of US$5.2 million to UNICEF for purchase and air-freight cost of 600 MT of Ready to Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), 37 MT of F-75 and drugs to the value of US$180,000. In total, the Humanitarian Response Fund has committed US$ 13 million for the drought emergency response.

UN finalizing joint response plan to the drought crisis.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator issued a statement urging an immediate, collaborative response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Press Contacts

Fidele Sarasso
Humanitarian Coordinator
Tel.: 251-11-5444483

Vincent Lelei
Head of Office, OCHA
Tel.: 251-11-5444248

Gregory Beals
Senior Information Officer, OCHA
Tel.: 251-11-5444162

Stephanie Bunker
Spokesperson and Public Information Officer
Tel: 1-917-367-5126

Elizbeth Byrs
Spokesperson and Public Information Officer
Tel: 41-229-172-653

Full_Report (pdf* format - 153.3 Kbytes)

Water savings queried

Melissa Fyfe , The Age, Melbourne Australia

DESPITE the crippling drought in northern Victoria, the Brumby Government has stood by its estimated water savings for Melbourne from the controversial north-south pipeline.

But in doing so, Water Minister Tim Holding appears to take the most rosy view of the future climate. The Government told The Sunday Age that it was reasonable to expect the drought to break and water savings to be calculated on the past 100 years of average rainfall, which does not take into account climate change.

Critics of the pipeline — who will be converging on Parliament for a protest on Tuesday — have argued that the Government has inflated the savings likely to come from the upgrade of irrigation infrastructure, saying the figures are based on losses in the system that have not existed for years. They say it is unfair for Melbourne to take water from an area suffering from record low dams and rivers.

Over the past 10 years, losses in the Goulburn-Murray district have averaged 690 billion litres a year. Premier John Brumby and his cabinet continue to talk of losses of about 800 to 900 billion litres a year, based on long-term averages. The Government believes it can save half this water.

A spokesman for Mr Holding said: "We are confident of receiving, on average, 425 billion litres of water savings."

Govenor declares drought, orders water sent to worst areas

A sprinkler waters a lawn in Emeryville, where the East B... The Los Angeles Aqueduct carries water from the snowcappe... Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Chronicle photo by Deanne Fit...

(06-04) 12:43 PDT Sacramento - --

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today declared a statewide drought and signed an executive order directing the state Department of Water Resources to quickly transfer water to areas with the most severe water shortages.

The executive order also calls on the state water department to coordinate with other state and federal agencies to assist water suppliers, identify risks to water supply and help farmers facing losses as a result of water shortages.

In addition, Schwarzenegger urged local water districts and agencies to promote water conservation and encouraged Californians to cut water usage by as much 20 percent.

The declaration comes after two years of below-average rainfall in California, low snowmelt runoff from the Sierra and the largest court-ordered water transfer restrictions in state history, the governor said.

"There is no more time to waste because nothing is more vital to protect our economy, our environment and our quality-of-life," Schwarzenegger said.

The governor also used the occasion to pitch his proposal for a $11.9 billion water bond that includes creating new dams, an idea that Democratic legislators have resisted.

But Schwarzenegger argued that California is desperately in need to building more water storage and improving water delivery systems to allow the state to better manage its water resources during dry years.

E-mail Matthew Yi at

Home energy generation

Home energy generation

Solar thermal By far the most popular green technology in Britain, these units convert sunlight straight to heat. They are fitted to roofs around the world to provide hot water, thus saving energy.

Combined heat and power units These generate heat and electricity from the same unit. Small-scale plants can heat and power single houses but larger ones can power neighbourhoods or estates. Expected to become very popular as the price reduces.

Heat pumps Exploit the difference between underground temperatures and those in buildings and act like a fridge in reverse. Common in Scandinavia and the technology is growing fast in the UK.

Micro-hydro Energy from running water is converted to electricity. These units are being fitted to old mill races, and are being installed in rivers. Depending on flow, they can provide enough electricity for hundreds of houses.

Solar photovoltaic panels and film Sunlight is converted directly into electricity. The technology is developing rapidly as billions of dollars are invested in it in the US and China takes over production lines.

Micro-wind Small-scale wind turbines generate electricity. Companies and householders are erecting their own turbines to become more self-sufficient as electricity prices rise.

Biomass boilers and stoves Burn wood chips and pellets to provide heat and power.

Nasa climate reports 'swayed by politics'

Political appointees placed by the Bush administration into senior positions within Nasa's media headquarters acted to play down and distort accounts given to the public of the research findings of its scientists on global warming, an official investigation has concluded.

The space agency's internal watchdog, the inspector general, reports that from autumn 2004 until early 2006 Nasa's central public affairs office handled global warming in a way that "reduced, marginalised, or mischaracterised climate change science made available to the general public".

The confirmation of political interference is vindication for James Hansen, Nasa's chief climate scientist and one of the first to sound the alarm over global warming. Claims of political dallying surfaced when Hansen said he had been blocked from taking part in a National Public Radio interview in December 2005.

In his report the inspector general, Kevin Winters, says he found no evidence of direct input by the White House in the handling of climate change science, and commends senior Nasa managers for acting swiftly once the allegations of censorship had been raised. But the report shows there was widespread belief among career Nasa press officers that the political appointees had created an "air of political interference" that stemmed from their desire to support the Bush administration by reducing the amount or toning down the impact of research on climate change disseminated to the public.

The report notes that the interference was perceived to have begun in the build-up to George Bush's re-election as president in November 2004.

The individual at the centre of the allegations was Dean Acosta, a senior public affairs officer appointed by Bush in 2003. He resigned in 2007. He and his fellow political appointees told the investigation they had edited scientific material in news releases in order to make it intelligible to the public, and denied any political incentive. Acosta, who now works for Boeing, told the New York Times that the report's criticisms were "patently false". "My entire career has been dedicated to open and honest communications," he said.

The report itemises ways in which information was allegedly blocked or twisted, including rewriting news releases to obscure or dilute scientists' findings, delaying releases, and putting them out when they would have reduced impact.

Third largest tropical forest could be halved by 2021, study warns

The forests of Papua New Guinea are being chopped down so quickly that more than half its trees could be lost by 2021, according to a new satellite study of the region.

Papua New Guinea has the world's third largest tropical forest, but it was being cleared or degraded at a rate of 362,000 hectares (895,000 acres) a year in 2001, the report said.

Phil Shearman, lead author of the study by the University of Papua New Guinea and the Australian National University, said: "Forests are being logged repeatedly and wastefully with little regard for the environmental consequences, and with at least the passive complicity of government authorities."

The researchers compared satellite images taken over three decades from the early 1970s. In 1972 the country had 38m hectares (94m acres), of rainforest covering 82% of the country. About 15% of that was cleared by 2002.

Shearman said: "For the first time we have evidence of what's happening. The government could make a significant contribution to global efforts to combat climate change, as this nation is particularly susceptible to negative effects due to loss of the forest cover."

Papua New Guinea was a founder of the Rainforest Coalition group of tropical states that say rich countries should pay them to protect their forests as a way of tackling climate change. But the study suggests many of the trees could be gone by the time any deal is in place.

"If they are allowing multinational timber companies to take everything that's accessible, all that will be left will be lands that are physically inaccessible to exploitation and would never have been logged," said Shearman.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ecosystem destruction costing hundreds of billions a year

Mangrove swamp

The decine of vast areas of mangroves is an environmental problem that must be urgently addressed, experts say. Photograph: Theo Allofs/Corbis

The steeply accelerating decline of the natural world is already costing hundreds of billions of pounds a year, say leading economists, in a review of the costs and benefits of forests, rivers and marine life. The losses will increase dramatically over the next generation unless urgent remedial action is taken, they say.

An interim report presented to world leaders meeting in Bonn yesterday warns of the "severe consequences" to all economies if forests continue to be felled, seas overfished and if land is turned to intensive farming. The report says that the world has lost 40% of its forests in 300 years, and half its wetlands in just 50 years. More than one third of mangroves have disappeared in just 20 years and there is increasing soil loss, as well as severe erosion, and growing water scarcity. Details on how to estimate the costs associated with this environmental degradation will come in the final report, due by 2010.

The new Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity review argues that biodiversity loss is already leading to wars and political destabilisation and international tension. Furthermore, the livelihoods of billions of the world's poorest people who depend directly on nature to earn their living are being undermined.

"We are consuming the world's biodiverse ecosystem at an unsustainable rate and this is starting to have serious socio-economic impacts", say the authors, led by Deutsche Bank economist Pavan Sukhdev. "We must ultimately answer to nature for the simple reason that it has limits and rules of its own. There are no economies without environments but there are environments without economies."

The review is modelled on the UK government's Stern review of climate change which in 2006 warned that the global economy would effectively collapse if countries did not address greenhouse gases, and that countries could not afford not to act.

"With biodiversity loss we are not only considering long term horizons as we are with climate change," the authors write. "Ecosystem degradation is already extensive and observable and its effects are dramatic. Significant losses are happening right now."

The economists warn that on current trends, 11% of the world's untouched forests and 60% of its coral reefs could be lost by 2030. About 60% of the Earth's ecosystem, examined by the researchers, has been degraded in the past 50 years. Population growth, changing land use and global climate change will lead to further declines.

The review references previous economic studies suggesting biodiversity loss could cost the world 7% of its economic wealth by 2050, a figure that would be measured in trillions of dollars a year. "This is a conservative estimate because it is partial, and does not account for loss of marine services", say the authors.

They call on governments to rethink subsidies to reflect tomorrow's priorities, and to urgently find a better way to value ecosystem damage. "The fundamental requirement is to develop an economic yardstick that is more effective than GDP for assessing the performance of an economy. Countries, companies and individuals need to understand the real costs of using the Earth's natural capital", they say.

Act on climate change, top scientists warn US

A group of 1,700 leading scientists called on the US government yesterday to take the lead in fighting global warming. Citing the "unprecedented and unanticipated" effects of global warming, the scientists, including six Nobel prizewinners, presented a letter calling for an immediate reduction in US carbon emissions.

The statement came as the Senate prepares to debate a bill next week that would impose economy-wide limits on greenhouse emissions to avert what it describes as "catastrophic climate change".

The letter, issued by the non-profit Union of Concerned Scientists, warns: "If emissions continue unabated, our nation and the world will face more sea level rise, heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, snowmelt, flood risk, and public health threats, as well as increased rates of plant and animal species extinctions."

The White House joined in the chorus of gloom when it issued a long-delayed report bringing together research into global warming. The report was issued after environmental groups won a court order last year enforcing a statute that obliges the government to produce an assessment of global warming every four years. Described as "a litany of bad news in store for the US", the report catalogues threats from drought, natural disaster, insect infestation and energy shortages.

The scientists call on the government to "put our nation on to a path today to reduce emissions on the order of 80% below 2000 levels by 2050." As a first step, the scientists call for a 15-20% reduction on 2000 levels by 2020. "There is no time to waste," the letter concludes. "The most risky thing we can do is nothing."

The targets go beyond those proposed by senators Joe Lieberman and John Warner in America's climate security act, due to be debated on Monday. Citing the prospect of rises in diseases such as malaria and asthma from hotter temperatures, as well as hunger, dislocation and death due to storms, that bill calls for a cut of up to 63% on 2005 levels by 2050.

Another group of climate scientists warned yesterday that a "false optimism" has infused international climate talks, saying that politicians should deliver "stringent emissions cuts and major adaptation efforts" or risk profound consequences for the planet.

The scientists said the world has lost 10 years talking about climate change when it should have acted. "A curious optimism ... pervades the political arenas of the G8 and UN climate meetings. This is false optimism and is obscuring reality," they write in Nature Reports Climate Change. The authors are part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but stress in this paper they do not represent the panel.

The scientists say that even the most politically feasible target, of a 50% global reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050 from the levels of 1990, would still entail "major global impacts". They used new modelling data on the impact of differing long-term cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. "For the first time we can read off what damages are avoided or not avoided for different amounts of emissions cuts," said Professor Martin Parry.

Amazon tribe sighting raises contact dilemma

From: Reuters


By Stuart Grudgings

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Dramatic photographs of previously unfound Amazon Indians have highlighted the precariousness of the few remaining "lost" tribes and the dangers they face from contact with outsiders.

The bow-and-arrow wielding Indians in the pictures released on Thursday are likely the remnants of a larger tribe who were forced deeper into the forest by encroaching settlement, experts said.

Rather than being "lost," they have likely had plenty of contact with other indigenous groups over the years, said Thomas Lovejoy, an Amazon expert who is president of The Heinz Center in Washington.

"I think there is an ethical question whether you can in the end keep them from any contact and I think the answer to that is no," Lovejoy said.

"The right answer is to have the kind of contact and change that the tribes themselves manage the pace of it."

The Brazil-Peru border area is one of the world's last refuges for such groups, with more than 50 uncontacted tribes thought to live there out of the estimated 100 worldwide.

They are increasingly at risk from development, especially on the Peruvian side which has been slower than Brazil to recognize protected areas for indigenous people.

Jose Carlos Meirelles, an official with Brazil's Indian protection agency who was on the helicopter that overflew the tribe, said they should be left alone as much as possible.

"While we are getting arrows in the face, it's fine," he told Brazil's Globo newspaper. "The day that they are well-behaved, they are finished."

Contact with outsiders has historically been disastrous for Brazil's Indians, who now number about 350,000 compared to up to 5 million when the first Europeans arrived.

"In 508 years of history, out of the thousands of tribes that exist none have adapted well to society in Brazil," said Sydney Possuelo, a former official with Brazil's Indian protection agency who founded its isolated tribes department.


In recent years, though, tribes like the Yanomami have succeeded in winning greater protection by becoming more politically organized and forming links with foreign conservationists.

"It's not about making that decision for them. It's about making time and space to make that decision themselves," said David Hill of the Survival International group.

More than half of the Murunahua tribe in Peru died of colds and other illness after they were contacted as a result of development for the first time in 1996, Hill said.

Sightings of such tribes are not uncommon, occurring once every few years in the Brazil-Peru border area where there are estimated to be more than 50 out of the total global number of 100 uncontacted tribes.

In 1998, a 200-strong tribe was discovered by Possuelo living in huts under the forest canopy, also in Acre state near the Brazil-Peru border.

In September last year, ecologists looking for illegal loggers in Peru spotted a little-known nomadic tribe deep in the Amazon.

The sighting underscored worries among rights groups that oil and gas exploration being pushed by the Peruvian government, as well as logging, is putting tribes at risk.

Peru has no equivalent to Brazil's long-standing Indian affairs department, which has a policy of no contact with unknown tribes.

"There is a lot of logging going on over on the Peruvian side," Hill said. "It's had all kinds of effects on the groups living there, particularly on the uncontacted groups -- it's led to violent conflicts and deaths."

In May, Peru's petroleum agency Perupetro said it would exclude areas where isolated tribes live from an auction of oil and gas concessions. Perupetro had been under pressure to limit exploration activities near tribal areas, and had cast doubt on the existence of isolated groups, angering activists.

(Additional reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio and Terry Wade in Lima; editing by Angus MacSwan)


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