Friday, March 13, 2009

Monbiot's royal flush: Top 10 climate change deniers

Monbiot's shortlist of people who have done most for the denialist cause - in playing card form

With the Heartland Institute's annual jamboree for climate deniers in full swing in New York here's my shortlist of people who have done most for the denialist cause - in playing card form.

Four of clubs
Sammy Wilson
Northern Ireland environment minister

Top 10 climate change deniers: Sammy Wilson Northern Ireland environment minister Sammy Wilson. Photograph:

Sammy Wilson's appointment as Northern Ireland environment minister appears to have been conceived as some sort of practical joke. It's no longer very funny. He fills the same role as the former South African health minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, who claimed that Aids could be treated with beetroot and lemon juice.

Wilson maintains that environmentalism is a "hysterical pseudo-religion".
Climate change is natural and "beyond our control", so "resources should be used to adapt to the consequences of climate change rather than King Canute style vainly trying to stop it."

But the minister for hysterical pseudo-religion intends to cling onto his brief come hell or high water.

Six of diamonds
Václav Klaus
President of Czech Republic

Top 10 climate change deniers: Vaclav Klaus President of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, one of the Top 10 climate change deniers. Photograph:

Klaus is the rightwing president of the Czech Republic
, criticised by
Vaclav Havel as a promoter of "gangster capitalism". He describes
himself as "the most important 'denier' in the world", though Viscount
Monckton (see below) might take issue with this.

He told the US Congress that "manmade climate change has become one of the most dangerous arguments aimed at distorting human efforts and public policies in the whole world … Communism was replaced by the threat of ambitious environmentalism." Climate change, he says, is caused "not by human behaviour but by various exogenous and endogenous natural processes (such as fluctuating solar activity)".

He describes concern about climate change as a "new wave of dangerous indoctrination of the whole world" and says that "global-warming alarmism is challenging our freedom, and Al Gore is a leader of that movement."

Seven of hearts
Steve Milloy
Fox News columnist

Top 10 climate change deniers: Steve Milloy Fox News columnist Steve Milloy. Photograph:

Steve Milloy writes a weekly "Junk Science" column for Fox News, which he uses, among other topics, to pour scorn on studies documenting the medical effects of secondhand tobacco smoke and showing that climate change is taking place. Fox describes his credentials thus: "Steven Milloy publishes and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute".

What it doesn't say is that he has long acted as a paid advocate for the tobacco company Philip Morris, while the fake grassroots group he runs has also received funding from ExxonMobil.

His website has been the main entrepôt for almost every kind of climate change denial that has found its way into the mainstream press. Milloy claims to be campaigning against "faulty scientific data and analysis used to advance special and, often, hidden agendas", which seems to be a pretty good summary of his own activities.

Eight of spades
Prof Pat Michaels
Cato Institute

Top 10 climate change deniers: Prof Pat Michaels Prof Pat Michaels from the Cato Institute. Photograph:

Michaels played a starring role in Channel 4's The Great Global Warming Swindle and is regularly used by the US media, largely because he is one of the very few deniers who has any relevant scientific credentials.

He maintains that: "When it comes to global warming, apparently the truth is inconvenient. And it's not just Gore's movie that's fiction. It's the rhetoric of the Congress and the chief executive, too."

Something he is less keen to reveal is that, as a leaked memo from an electricity company shows, he has recently been paid at least $100,000 by companies involved in coal-fired power production to make the public case against climate change. In 2007 Michaels withdrew as an expert witness from a court case about climate change, after it became clear that his other sources of funding could be revealed to the public.

Nine of diamonds
Christopher Monckton
Former adviser to Margaret Thatcher

Top 10 climate change deniers: Christopher Monckton Former adviser to Thatcher Christopher Monckton. Photograph: The Guardian

Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, whose academic qualification is a classics degree, maintains that "politicians, scientists and bureaucrats contrived a threat of Biblical floods, droughts, plagues, and extinctions worthier of St John the Divine than of science." He came to public notice with a long paper published on the website of the Sunday Telegraph, accusing the UN of scientific fraud. His paper was filled with sciencey equations and calculations, which were rapidly dismissed as bunkum by real scientists.

He has threatened several of those who have challenged his scientific claims with libel suits, but they have not yet materialised. Though he has never held a seat in the Lords, he maintained in a threatening letter to two US senators that he was "a member of the Upper House of the United Kingdom legislature".

He has also claimed that, among other unlikely feats, he was responsible for winning the Falklands war. His grand statements about climate science and his own credentials have earned him the nickname among some environmentalists of Viscount Monckhausen.

10 of hearts
Sarah Palin
Governor of Alaska

Top 10 climate change deniers: Sarah Palin Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin. Photograph:

An Alaskan denying climate change is like a Saudi Arabian denying sand. But can she do it? You betcha. The eagle-eyed governor can – or so the satirists claim- see Russia from her house, but apparently not the melting permafrost, shrinking glaciers and disappearing sea ice closer to home.

During her vice-presidential campaign, she embarrassed John McCain by maintaining: "I'm not one though who would attribute it [climate change] to being manmade." She has refused to classify the polar bear as an endangered species on the grounds that the sea ice is here to stay, but is making plans for opening up the Arctic Sea to oil drilling, on the grounds that the ice is due to disappear. Could her ambivalence towards climate change have anything to do with the fact that Alaska is a major oil state? You betcha.

Jack of clubs
James Inhofe
Senator for Oklahoma

Top 10 climate change deniers: James Inhofe US Senator for Oklahoma James Inhofe one of the Top 10 climate change deniers. Photograph: AP/The Guardian

Inhofe is the senior Senator for Oklahoma. He leads the Republican party's Neanderthal tendency and receives more campaign money from fossil fuel companies than from any other sector.

In 2003 he delivered a speech to the Senate called The Science of Climate Change, in which he said: "The claim that global warming is caused by manmade emissions is simply untrue and not based on sound science … With all of the hysteria, all of the fear, all of the phony science, could it be that manmade global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people? It sure sounds like it."

Seeking to characterise environmentalists, he says: "I could use the Third Reich, the Big Lie ... You say something over and over and over and over again, and people will believe it, and that's their strategy." He has also compared the US Environmental Protection Agency to the Gestapo. Terrifyingly, until 2006 Inhofe chaired the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Queen of diamonds
Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail columnist

Top 10 climate change deniers: Melanie Phillips Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips. Photograph: The Guardian

Mel P (Genuinely Scary Spice) appears to believe that half the scientists on earth are engaged in a series of giant conspiracies. Like Christopher Booker (below), she dismisses not only climate change but also the entire canon of evolutionary science. She also stoutly defends the thesis that MMR injections cause autism.

She claims that "the theory that global warming is all the fault of mankind is a massive scam based on flawed computer modelling, bad science and an anti-western ideology … The majority of well-meaning opinion in the Western world believes a pack of lies and propaganda". She has also maintained that "carbon dioxide forms a relatively small proportion of the atmosphere, most of which consists of water vapour."

If this were the case, we would need gills.

King of diamonds
Christopher Booker
Sunday Telegraph columnist

Top 10 climate change deniers: Christopher Booker Sunday Telegraph columnist Christopher Booker. Photograph: Rex/The Guardian

Booker writes a column in the Sunday Telegraph. It's filled with so many misleading claims about climate change, evolution, asbestos, speed cameras and the European Union that it would take an encyclopedia to document them.

His most famous contention was made in a column in February 2008. The previous September, he noted, "sea ice cover had shrunk to the lowest level ever recorded. But for some reason the warmists are less keen on the latest satellite findings, reported by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. … Its graph of northern hemisphere sea ice area, which shows the ice shrinking from 13,000m sq km to just 4m from the start of 2007 to October, also shows it now almost back to 13m sq km."

To reinforce this point, he helpfully republished the graph, showing that the ice had indeed expanded between September and January. The Sunday Telegraph continues to employ a man who cannot tell the difference between summer and winter. The prestigious and highly sought Christopher Booker prize for climate change denial was named in his honour.

Ace of spades
David Bellamy
TV presenter

Top 10 climate change deniers: David Bellamy TV presenter David Bellamy. Photograph: The Guardian

Because he was once an environmentalist and a famous broadcaster, David Bellamy is used as the mascot of climate change deniers all over the world. Like most mascots he is cute, furry and apparently incapable of rational thought. He has claimed that global warming is "poppycock", that "the global warmers are telling lies – carbon dioxide is not the driver" and that "555 of all the 625 glaciers under observation by the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Zurich, Switzerland, have been growing since 1980" (the WGMS responded that this was "complete bullshit").

He maintains that "since I said I didn't believe human beings caused global warming I've not been allowed to make a TV programme." This is odd because he stopped making TV programmes in 1994. He was making public statements in support of mainstream climate science until at least 2000, and his first public statement to the contrary was in 2004. But the conspiracy extends even further. "Have you noticed there is a wind turbine on Teletubbies?", he asked in the Daily Express. "That's subliminal advertising, isn't it?"

Time to change 'climate change'

What's clear from Copenhagen is that policymakers have fallen behind the scientists: global warming is already catastrophic

The more we know, the grimmer it gets.

Presentations by climate scientists at this week's conference in Copenhagen show that we might have underplayed the impacts of global warming in three important respects:

• Partly because the estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) took no account of meltwater from Greenland's glaciers, the rise in sea levels this century could be twice or three times as great as it forecast, with grave implications for coastal cities, farmland and freshwater reserves.

• Two degrees of warming in the Arctic (which is heating up much more quickly than the rest of the planet) could trigger a massive bacterial response in the soils there. As the permafrost melts, bacteria are able to start breaking down organic material that was previously locked up in ice, producing billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide and methane. This could catalyse one of the world's most powerful positive feedback loops: warming causing more warming.

• Four degrees of warming could almost eliminate the Amazon rainforests, with appalling implications for biodiversity and regional weather patterns, and with the result that a massive new pulse of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Trees are basically sticks of wet carbon. As they rot or burn, the carbon oxidises. This is another way in which climate feedbacks appear to have been underestimated in the last IPCC report.

Apart from the sheer animal panic I felt on reading these reports, two things jumped out at me. The first is that governments are relying on IPCC assessments that are years out of date even before they are published, as a result of the IPCC's extremely careful and laborious review and consensus process. This lends its reports great scientific weight, but it also means that the politicians using them as a guide to the cuts in greenhouse gases required are always well behind the curve. There is surely a strong case for the IPCC to publish interim reports every year, consisting of a summary of the latest science and its implications for global policy.

The second is that we have to stop calling it climate change. Using "climate change" to describe events like this, with their devastating implications for global food security, water supplies and human settlements, is like describing a foreign invasion as an unexpected visit, or bombs as unwanted deliveries. It's a ridiculously neutral term for the biggest potential catastrophe humankind has ever encountered.

I think we should call it "climate breakdown". Does anyone out there have a better idea?

Will the recession cut our CO2 emissions?

Economic activity is slumping, the price of carbon trading credits plunging – but analysts forecast only a negligible slowdown in global warming

As the recession bites, the economies of many countries are slumping. But is the consequent fall in demand for energy and goods significantly ­reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

In Europe, the emissions trading scheme provides a clue. Firms with high levels of pollution must buy carbon credits, the price of which has fallen below €9 from €30 last summer.

Analysts say the price drop reflects a slowing demand for credits as companies scale back production and cut their carbon emissions. But it could also indicate companies have sold large amounts of surplus credits to raise cash.

Frank Convery, professor of environmental policy at University College Dublin, said the big sectors in the trading scheme, such as cement, steel, pulp, paper and glassmaking, were all in sharp decline. "And all that feeds back into emissions."

Sectors of the economy not covered by the scheme, such as agriculture and light industry, are faring little better. "Every single one you look at, the output is heading south," Convery said.

Alex Bowen, an economist with the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, who helped to write the 2006 Stern review on the economics of climate change, said transport would be affected too, as firms sent fewer goods and materials by road, sea and air. "Emissions from transport are likely to be hit quite a lot," he said.

Figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change for the third quarter of 2008 showed a 8.5% fall in transport fuel consumption on 2007 levels — though this is more likely to reflect last summer's high prices.

Bowen said emissions from gas burnt in domestic heating, the other major source of UK carbon emissions, were less likely to shrink with the recession.

The actual impact of the recession on emissions will be confirmed only by the publication of national pollution ­figures, but these are issued infrequently and are usually out of date.

Overall, experts say the impact of the recession on global warming will not be very significant, because, despite ­policies to cut carbon emissions, the scale of a country's carbon emissions is still tied closely to its gross domestic product (GDP).

Bowen said the rule of thumb used in the Stern review was that a 1% change in GDP brings a 0.9% change in carbon pollution. That means the 2.5% decline in worldwide GDP for 2009 projected by the International Monetary Fund would reduce emissions by 2.25%.

Figures for the past five years ­suggest carbon emissions have risen by 2.5% each year, which indicates they could still rise by 0.25% this year, despite the economic downturn. The rise will continue to be driven by ­coal-fuelled economic growth in China and India, Bowen said, but more slowly than before.

Pieter Tans, a scientist with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which ­monitors CO2 in the atmosphere, said: "I see no sign of any slowdown of the global trend." Carbon dioxide levels have risen by between 2 and 3 parts per million (ppm) each year over the past decade. Tans said a 6% drop in emissions — equivalent to a near 7% drop in GDP — would reduce that annual growth rate only by 0.24ppm. "This is well within the year-to-year natural variability of the CO2 increase we have observed over many decades."

Preliminary measurements show the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere reached a new high of 386.6ppm in December 2008.

Keith Allott, head of climate change with WWF, said the recession would be a "painful blip" in emissions figures. "In terms of the global carbon budget we have for this century, it might buy us a year or two," he said. Allott warned the short-term cut in carbon emissions could "flatter to deceive", by suggesting the problem was under control, and should not be allowed to derail investment in clean energy. "We've seen a huge boom and bust in the economy. We can't afford a similar boom and bust in the climate."

There is one positive note for some European countries — the recession may help them meet tough greenhouse gas targets set under the Kyoto protocol. Nations such as Austria, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Denmark and Finland, are way off-track on Kyoto targets andface having to buy millions of credits to cover their shortfalls from 2012.

In Ireland, for example, experts say the recession has cut GDP by 9%, taking it back to 2005 levels. Convery says this has probably reduced annual greenhouse gas emissions by the same amount, from the 70m tonnes recorded in 2006, to close to the 63m tonnes permitted under Kyoto. Ireland alone could therefore save €300m on purchases of carbon credits, Convery said.

California panel urges 'immediate action' to protect against rising sea levels

From: LA Times

Global warming is projected to cause ocean levels to rise 55 inches or more by the end of the century. Report recommends phased abandonment of coastal areas and moving state infrastructure inland.
By Margot Roosevelt
March 12, 2009
As California officials see it, global warming is happening so there's no time to waste in figuring out what to do.

California's interagency Climate Action Team on Wednesday issued the first of 40 reports on impacts and adaptation, outlining what the state's residents must do to deal with the floods, erosion and other effects expected from rising sea levels.

Hundreds of thousands of people and billions of dollars of Golden State infrastructure and property would be at risk if ocean levels rose 55 inches by the end of the century, as computer models suggest, according to the report.

The group floated several radical proposals: limit coastal development in areas at risk from sea rise; consider phased abandonment of certain areas; halt federally subsidized insurance for property likely to be inundated; and require coastal structures to be built to adapt to climate change.

"Immediate action is needed," said Linda Adams, secretary for environmental protection. "It will cost significantly less to combat climate change than it will to maintain a business-as-usual approach."
Few topics are likely to be more contentious than coastal development. But along the state's 2,000-mile shoreline the effects would be acute, particularly in San Mateo and Orange counties, where more than 100,000 people would be affected, according to the 99-page state-commissioned report by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute.

Detailed maps of the coastline, published on the institute's website, show that residential neighborhoods in Venice and Marina del Rey could find themselves in a flood zone. Water could cover airports in San Francisco and Oakland, parts of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and large swaths of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach.
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Trade Concerns Raised in U.S. Climate Debate

From: Worldwatch Institute

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and U.S. legislative leaders are discussing the inclusion of tariffs in the country's climate change policy, the Democratic Congressman said yesterday.

Although sparse on details, Brown said he and California Senator Barbara Boxer, Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, have spoken about trade provisions he described as "border equalization" measures.


"If a U.S. company, say a steel mill in Ohio, if their cost goes up dramatically for cutting carbon, it's one more reason to think they're not going to be competitive.... They lose jobs. [The state] loses manufacturing," Brown said during an event on green jobs hosted by theWorldwatch Institute and Heinrich Böll Foundation. "We need some guarantee that my state will not be overwhelmed by the costs [of a climate change bill]."

Brown is among a group of Democratic senators from industrial states whose coveted votes on climate legislation may be lost due to worries that the policy would cast undue economic hardship on their states.

Brown also raised concern about President Barack Obama's plan to return two-thirds of the profits from emissions credits to taxpayers, which the president has said would help offset the cost of higher energy bills. Such a policy may benefit states that are less reliant on fossil fuel energy sources, but not more-dependent regions, he said. Ohio burns coal for 86 percent of its electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"The benefit is directed to everyone nationally in a middle-class tax cut. It doesn't strike me as fair," he said. "Those who bear the burden need to get benefits back."

Brown has called for assistance to the working class throughout his Senate term, but the issue has taken on greater urgency with the economic recession. Brown carried his concerns into the climate debate last year when he and a group of 10 senators from coal and automotive industry states opposed U.S. climate legislation. Five senators have since joined the group, after a letter outlining the senators' main concerns was delivered to Senator Boxer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in June.

"The final bill must include enhanced safeguards to ensure a truly equitable and effective global effort that minimizes harm to the U.S. economy and protects American jobs," the letter said [PDF]. "If this mechanism [to protect manufacturing jobs] does not work, or is found to be noncompliant with the World Trade Organization, then the program needs to be modified or suspended."

Companies that represent the steel and utility industries have lobbied for tariffs on goods imported from countries that have less-stringent carbon restrictions - a policy often referred to as a "border adjustment charge" [PDF]. The U.S. Steel Corp. predicts that the United States may lose as many as 1 million jobs in the steel sector to countries such as China and Mexico.

Protectionist measures would likely draw the ire of U.S. trading partners and possibly violate World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, according to Jake Colvin, vice president for global trade issues with the National Foreign Trade Council, a U.S. trade advocacy group.

Yet climate policy may be written in such a way that would circumvent current WTO rules, Colvin suggested during a speech [PDF] to the Global Business Dialogue in January. "International law in this area is relatively unformed, which suggests that there is an advantage to acting sooner rather than later," he said. "The first [climate legislation] proposals are more likely to become the foundation on which WTO rules will be based in the future."

In Europe, critics have voiced economic concerns similar to Brown's. But the combination of a regional cap-and-trade agreement and incentives for renewable energy

industries have led to employment increases in Germany, said Rainer Hinrichs-Rahlwes, vice president of the European Renewable Energy Federation.

Renewable energy produced about 16 percent of Germany's electricity and 260,000 jobs last year, according to Hinrichs-Rahlwes. "Wind is the second largest buyer of steel products," he said during the event yesterday. "It's helped our steel industry remain competitive."

Despite Brown's criticism of proposed climate policies, he noted that climate change is "the great moral issue of our times." He also said that he supports an increase in technology transfer to China.

"We should share as much technology [with China] as we can so their coal-fired plants can be as clean as they can," he said.

Ben Block is a staff writer with the Worldwatch Institute. He can be reached at

This article is a product of Eye on Earth, Worldwatch Institute's online news service. For permission to reprint Eye on Earth content, please contact Juli Diamond at

U.S. seeks to spur renewable energy on public lands

From: Ayesha Rascoe, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Interior Department on Wednesday said it has created a special task force to speed the development of renewable energy projects on federal lands.

"More so than ever, with job losses continuing to mount, we need to steer the country onto a new energy path," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The task force will identify specific zones on public lands where the department can act rapidly to create large-scale production of solar, wind, geothermal and biomass energy.

"We will assign a high priority to identifying renewable energy zones and completing the permitting and appropriate environmental review of transmission rights-of-way applications that are necessary to deliver renewable energy generation to consumers," Salazar said. "We have to connect the sun of the deserts and the wind of the plains with the places where people live."

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As expected, no commercial salmon fishing this year

Published: Friday, March 13, 2009 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 12, 2009 at 6:32 p.m.

The bleak outlook for salmon fishermen continued Thursday when federal regulators crafted three options for fishing seasons that all would prohibit commercial catches off California.

The professional fishermen, who already were banned from salmon fishing last year, said Thursday’s action was expected, but it means another season off the water.

“We’ll just suffer through another year like we did last year,” said Chris Lawson, president of the Fisherman’s Marketing Association of Bodega Bay. Fishermen, he said, will apply for a second year of federal disaster aid.

The Pacific Fishery Management Council put forth the three season options Thursday in Seattle. The council will recommend one of the options at its April meeting in Millbrae. Based on that recommendation, the U.S. Commerce Department will set the West Coast salmon season.

Ocean sports fishing also was banned last year off California. The prospects are little better this year.

One of the three options would allow for 10 days of recreational ocean fishing for Klamath River salmon in late summer north of Eureka, said Dave Bitts, a commercial fishermen from Eureka attending the Seattle meeting. The other two options allow no ocean sports fishing.

“It’ll definitely mean tightening our belts,” said Roger Thomas, president of the Golden Gate Fishermen’s Association, a group of about 50 charter boat operators.

Nonetheless, Thomas and commercial fishermen said the council had little choice but to prohibit fishing in order to protect dwindling numbers of Sacramento River chinook salmon, for years the mainstay of the state’s salmon harvest.

Only about 66,000 chinook returned to spawn in the Sacramento last fall. This year, state and federal biologists predict that 122,196 adult salmon would return if all fishing is banned.

That would meet the federal government’s minimum goal of allowing 122,000 adults per year to return to the river.

Fishermen said they hope they will be able to fish again in 2010. And Bitts said this year they plan to push state and federal agencies to find out “what the heck is going wrong with those Sacramento River fish.”

Monday, March 9, 2009

Coral atolls and sea level rise

From: Solomon Star

MUCH has been written of late regarding the impending demise of the world's coral atolls due to sea level rise.

Recently, here in the Solomon Islands, the sea level rise has been blamed for salt water intrusion into the subsurface "lens" of fresh water under some atolls.

Beneath the surface of most atolls, there is a lens shaped body of fresh water which floats on the seawater underneath.

The claim is that the rising sea levels are contaminating the fresh-water lens with seawater. These claims of blame ignore several facts. The first and most important fact, discovered by none other than Charles Darwin

, is that coral atolls essentially "float" on the surface of the sea.

When the sea rises, the atoll rises with it, and when the sea falls, they fall as well.

Atolls exist in a delicate balance between new sand and coral rubble being added from the reef, and sand and rubble being eroded by wind and wave back into the sea.

When the sea falls, more sand tumbles from the high part, and more of the atoll is exposed to wind erosion.
The atoll falls along with the sea level. When the sea level rises, wind erosion decreases. The coral grows up along with the sea level rise.

The flow of sand and rubble onto the atoll continues, and the atoll rises. Since atolls go up and down with the sea level as Darwin discovered, the idea that they will be buried by sea level rises is totally unfounded.
They have gone through sea level rises much larger and much faster than the current one.

Given that established scientific fact, why is there water incursion into the fresh water lenses? Several factors affect this.

First and foremost, the fresh water lens is a limited supply. As island populations increase, more and more water is drawn from the lens.

The inevitable end of this is the intrusion of sea water into the lens. This affects both wells and plants, which both draw from the same lens.

It also leads to unfounded claims that sea level rise is to blame. It is not. Seawater is coming in because fresh water is going out.

The second reason for salt water intrusion into the lens is a reduction in the amount of sand and rubble coming onto the atoll from the reef. When the balance between sand added and sand lost is disturbed, the atoll shrinks.

This has two main causes — coral mining and killing the wrong fish. The use of coral for construction in many atolls is quite common.

At times this is done in a way that damages the reef as well as taking the coral. This is the visible part of the loss of reef, the part we can see.

What goes unremarked is the loss of the reef sand, which is essential for the continued existence of the atoll.
The cause of the loss of sand is the indiscriminate, wholesale killing of parrotfish and other beaked reef-grazing fish.

A single parrotfish, for example, creates about half a tonne of coral sand per year. Parrotfish and other beaked reef fish create the sand by grinding up the reef with their massive jaws, digesting the food, and excreting the ground coral.

In addition to making all that fine white sand that makes up the lovely island beaches, beaked grazing fish also increase overall coral health, growth, and production.

This happens in the same way that pruning makes a tree send up lots of new shoots, or the same way that lions keep a herd of zebras healthy and productive.

The constant grazing by the beaked fish keeps the corals in full production mode.
Unfortunately, these fish sleep at night, and are easily wiped out by night divers. Their populations have plummeted in many areas in recent years. Result? Much less sand.

The third reason for salt water intrusion into the lens is the tidal cycle. We are currently in the high part of the 18 year tidal cycle.

The maximum high tide in Honiara in 2008 was about 10 cm higher than the maximum tide in 1996, and the highs will now decrease until about 2014.

People often mistake an unusually high tide for a rise in sea level, which it is not. There has been no increase in the recorded rate of sea level rise. In fact, the global sea level rise has flattened out in the last couple years.

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U.S. needs to do more on climate: EU official

From: Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - The United States must make deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions than proposed by PresidentBarack Obama if the world is to stand a chance of avoiding devastating climate change, an EU official said.

Jos Delbeke, the European Commission's deputy director-general of the environment, said a goal of bringing U.S. greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, set by Obama last month, will probably not be enough.

"I doubt whether that will bring us to the average required by developed countries," he told Reuters on Friday. "We in Europe would hope the U.S. will do more than stabilization of 1990 levels. I will not hide that."

Scientists say global emissions must stabilize by 2015, then fall by some 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 if the world is to keep temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius.

A rise of over 2 degrees may trigger widespread flooding, droughts, disease and famine, United Nations scientists said.

The 27-nation European Union has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, upping that target to 30 percent if a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol climate pact is signed.

"The EU's position is that developed countries, as a group, must cut 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2020," Delbeke told a clean energy conference held by analysts New Energy Finance.

With its carbon dioxide emissions rising nearly 20 percent since 1990, the United States is the most polluting developed country.

Stabilization of U.S. emissions at 1990 levels in 2020 would make it near impossible for developed countries to reach the EU's 30 percent group target.

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Czech leader joins meeting of climate change deniers

• US convention aimed at escalating confrontation
• Klaus to attack 'arrogant, unscrupulous ideology'

A polar bear shakes his body to remove water

Climate change is said to be threatening the future of species such as the polar bear. Photograph: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters

It is billed as the largest ever gathering of climate change deniers, a convention that kicked off last night with a title suggesting global warming is a thing of the past, and a guest list that includes a hurricane forecaster, a retired astronaut and a sitting European president.

Entitled Global Warming: Was It Ever Really a Crisis? and featuring some of the most prominent naysayers in the climate change debate, this week's conference in New York sets out to escalate its confrontation with the scientific establishment, the vast majority of whose members subscribe to the view that humans are the principal cause of climate change.

Conference organisers were celebrating something of a coup in securing as a keynote speaker the Czech president, Václav Klaus, at a time when his country holds the rotating presidency of the EU. Klaus, a Eurosceptic, believes that efforts to protect the world from the impact of climate change are an assault on freedom.

In his remarks last night, Klaus accused European governments of being "alarmist" on the subject of climate change and in thrall to radical environmentalists.

"They probably do not want to reveal their true plans and ambitions to stop economic development and return mankind several centuries back," he said.

He received a standing ovation. But Klaus admitted that his position was a lonely one.

"It is evident that the climate change debate has not made any detectable progress," he said. "It reminds me of the frustration people like me felt in the communist era."

This week's gathering by the Heartland Institute, a Chicago thinktank that shares the Czech president's free-market views, brings together some of the more vocal critics of the scientific consensus, which maintains that rising temperatures are now so dangerous to people's existence as to warrant urgent action.

Among more than 70 participants listed by the Heartland Institute is Jack Schmitt, a former astronaut, who now teaches engineering physics. William Gray, who is regarded as a leading hurricane forecaster, is also listed, along with Fred Singer, the atmospheric physicist who argues that a melting Arctic would have some positive effects, including the formation of the long-sought north-west passage. There is also a strong contingent of free marketeers and conservative commentators, including Christopher Booker and Christopher Monckton, both British.

Environmentalists argue that climate change denial, although the view of a minority, has damaged efforts to introduce policies to address the changes.

Kert Davies, research director for Greenpeace, says the climate change deniers have been adept at adapting their views as the public grows more conscious of the dangers of global warming.

The deniers also have resources. The Centre for Public Integrity said in a report last month that the lobby opposing climate change action gave work to 2,430 Washington lobbyists in 2008. The report estimated that about 15% of Washington's lobbyists were now working to try to stop Congress from passing a law putting a cap on carbon.

"They are on the fringes - when you look at where the public is on this issue, where governments are on this issue, and where scientific organisations are on this issue," said Kevin Grandia, the manager of DeSmogBlog, which seeks to counter misinformation on global warming. "The problem is when you take that fringe and add in the public relations ability to amplify that message. They have ingrained their message so well ... it can easily be used as a tool to oppose legislation."

Opinion polls show that about 58% of Americans believe human activity is causing climate change. However, many do not see a need for urgent action. A poll by the Pew Research Centre this year showed that climate change ranked last among topics of public concern to Americans.

The Heartland Institute was funded by Exxon Mobil until 2006. It disavows such links for this conference, but lists 55 sponsors, some of which do receive funding from Exxon and rightwing thinktanks.

How we deal with climate change: denial

Academics meeting in Bristol at the weekend for Britain's first conference on the psychology of climate change argued that the greatest obstacles to action are not technical, economic or political - they are the denial strategies that we adopt to protect ourselves from unwelcome information. Nearly 80% of people claim to be concerned about climate change, but many people have a tendency to define this concern in ways that keep it far away. They describe climate change as a global problem (not a local one) and as a future problem (not one for their lifetimes). And 60% of people believe that "many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change" while 30% believe climate change is "largely down to natural causes". Seven per cent deny climate is changing at all.
George Marshall

• George Marshall is founder of the Climate Outreach Information Network


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