Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Burger chain's climate change whopper

Burger chain's climate change whopper

Tennessee outlets ended up eating humble pie after a local reporter spotted 'rogue' signs outside Burger King outlets

Burger King Calls Global Warming 'Baloney' reports by the Memphis Flyer

Burger King outlets in Tennessee calls global warming 'baloney'. Photograph: www.memphisflyer.com

Would you like a side order of climate denial with your flame-broiled Triple Whopper? If so, then you need to get yourself over to Tennessee where a number of Burger King franchises in the US state that gave us Al Gore have been displaying "Global Warming is Baloney" signs outside their fast-food restaurants.

Chris Davis, a staff writer for the Memphis Flyer, a local newsweekly, noticed the signs outside two Burger Kings in the city last week and decided to put in a call to one of the restaurants to inquire whether such a view was now official Burger King policy. Here's his transcript of the call…

Davis: Hi, I'm calling from the Flyer about your sign. Does Burger King really think global warming is baloney?
BK: [Hang-up]
Davis: [Calling back]: Your sign out front says global warming is baloney.
BK: I don't see that, sir.
Davis: Well, it does.
BK: I don't see that sir... I change the signs and that sign's been up for a week.
Davis: Well, I have pictures that I took this afternoon…So, there's no question that your sign said it and so did one in Midtown. I want to know if it was on purpose, or if it was a prank someone pulled on you.
BK: Let me get the manager. [several minutes of dead air then the same or very similar voice picks up.]
BK: Who were you holding for?
Davis: A manager, about the sign. I have pictures of the sign and people have called me upset. I just want to know if it's a mistake or not so I can report it.
BK: Let me go outside and look at the sign and I'll call you right back. [exchange of contact info]
[Phone rings, Davis answers]
BK: The sign was put up yesterday.
Davis: And it's not a mistake?
BK: No.
Davis: It reflects the opinion of BK international?
BK: Yes. Would you like to talk to the home office? I can give you a number.
Davis: I've got the number, I've already contacted them. Thanks.

A few days pass before Davis hears back from someone higher up the food chain at Burger King. Last Friday, he finally received an email from Susan Robison, the vice president of corporate communications at the Burger King Corporation:

This statement ["Global Warming is baloney"] does not reflect a Burger King Corp. (BKC) opinion or view. The two restaurants where these signs appeared are independently owned and operated and were not authorized to display this statement. The signs have since been removed. BKC believes in operating as a socially responsible company and is committed to making a positive impact in the communities where it lives and works.

One imagines that someone at Burger King realised that the "global warming is baloney" line didn't exactly chime with the views of John Chidsey, the company's CEO, who believes that climate change is "an overriding issue of importance for the global community, business community and people in general", as he stated in this short interview conducted at this year's World Economic Forum. (How he squares this concern with his company's drive-thru, meat-munching business model is another matter, though.)

Memphis Flyer readers have been contacting the paper since the story first appeared to say that they have noticed other restaurants across Tennessee displaying the same sign. It appears that they are all owned by a company called the Mirabile Investment Corporation (MIC) that owns more than 40 Burger Kings across Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi, as well as a handful of Popeyes and All In One franchises. Some readers have added that the signs are still up at some of the restaurants. Davis says he has requested a response from MIC, but has not yet received one.

I applaud their honesty, though. I think we should know what a restaurant's position is on the key issues of the day before we choose to step across their threshold. Let's go the full hog – I want to know their views on immigration, cap and trade, MPs expenses, schooling, the Middle East's roadmap, Susan Boyle and stem cell research before I even reach the menu board outside. Maybe there's room in the fast-food sector for a politically-themed chain of restaurants? How about we call it Hard To Swallow?

UK carbon offset schemes 'failing to reduce emissions'

Expansion of carbon offsetting and clean development mechanism is locking developing nations into a high-carbon path, report warns

Britain is the world centre of a multibillion dollar "carbon offset" industry which is failing to lower global greenhouse gas emissions, a major report from Friends of the Earth claimed today.

The authors urged governments meeting this week in Bonn for UN climate change talks to drop plans to expand offsetting schemes, which allow rich countries to invest in projects that reduce emissions in poor countries as an alternative to more expensive emission reductions in their own countries.

Offsetting is set to expand enormously if the 192 governments meeting in Bonn allow forests, nuclear power and other sources of "clean energy" to count towards emissions reductions as part of a UN climate treaty expected to be agreed in Copenhagen this December..

The problem, said the report, is that offset schemes are delivering much lower greenhouse gas cuts than the science says are needed to avoid catstrophic climate change. Offsetting supports the idea that the cuts can be made in either rich or in poor countries " ... when it is clear that action is needed in both," said the report. "Offsets are a dangerous distraction ... It is almost impossible to prove that offsetting projects would not have happened without the offset finance. Nor is it possible to calculate accurately how much carbon a project is saving," it added.

Offsetting has been promoted heavily by the UK government in Europe and the UN as a painless way of reducing global emissions. The idea has mushroomed in the last five years with the rapid growth of the UN's clean development mechanism (CDM) which attracts investment money to poorer countries in new projects. These are expected to deliver more than half of the EU's planned carbon reductions to 2020.

"The clean development mechanism is supposed to be a way of making the same level of carbon cuts as would otherwise happen, but more cost effectively. At best it shifts a cut in a developed country to one in a developing one. In practice, it does not even do this," said Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth UK.

Moreover, said the report, the CDM is locking in poor countries to a high-carbon path, with some big CDM projects approved for even major fossil fuel power stations. "A large part of CDM revenues are subsidising carbon intensive industries or projects building fossil fuel power stations."

Two previous analyses of the CDM suggested that companies routinely abuse the UN-backed offsetting scheme, wasting billions of pounds.

The UK government has already used offsetting as a way to justify high carbon investments in major projects like the expansion of Heathrow, it said. "Offsetting makes it far more likely that developed countries will continue on a high-carbon path, choosing to buy cheap permits rather than invest in low-carbon infrastructure," said the report's authors.

Nearly 30% of the world's 2,500 CDM projects originate in London, although not all the projects offset UK emissions.

NASA Satellite Detects Red Glow to Map Global Ocean Plant Health

From: Editor, ENN
Published June 1, 2009 10:28 AM

A study published by NASA uses satellite remote sensing technology to measure the amount of fluorescent red light emitted by ocean phytoplankton and assess how efficiently the microscopic plants are turning sunlight and nutrients into food through photosynthesis. They can also study how changes in the global environment alter these processes, which are at the center of the ocean food web.

Researchers have conducted the first global analysis of the health and productivity of ocean plants, as revealed by a unique signal detected by a NASA satellite. Ocean scientists can now remotely measure the amount of fluorescent red light emitted by ocean phytoplankton and assess how efficiently the microscopic plants are turning sunlight and nutrients into food through photosynthesis. They can also study how changes in the global environment alter these processes, which are at the center of the ocean food web.

"This is the first direct measurement of the health of the phytoplankton in the ocean," said Michael Behrenfeld, a biologist who specializes in marine plants at the Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore. "We have an important new tool for observing changes in phytoplankton every week, all over the planet."

The findings were published this month in the journal Biogeosciences and presented at a news briefing on May 28.

The fluorescence data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) gives scientists a tool that enables research to reveal where waters are iron-enriched or iron-limited, and to observe how changes in iron influence plankton. The iron needed for plant growth reaches the sea surface on winds blowing dust from deserts and other arid areas, and from upwelling currents near river plumes and islands.

The new analysis of MODIS data has allowed the research team to detect new regions of the ocean affected by iron deposition and depletion. The Indian Ocean was a particular surprise, as large portions of the ocean were seen to "light up" seasonally with changes in monsoon winds.

Climate change could mean stronger winds pick up more dust and blow it to sea, or less intense winds leaving waters dust-free. Some regions will become drier and others wetter, changing the regions where dusty soils accumulate and get swept up into the air. Phytoplankton will reflect and react to these global changes.

The image shows a data-based map of the "fluorescence yield" of phytoplankton in the oceans during 2004. "Fluorescence yield" is the fraction of absorbed sunlight that is given off by the plants as fluorescence and it changes with the health or stress of the phytoplankton. More fluorescence is emitted when waters are low in key nutrients such as iron. Credit: NASA's Scientific Visualization Studio.

Interestingly, the regions of highest fluorescence yield are almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere. The interactions of Southern Hemisphere and Northern Hemisphere oceanic and atmospheric circulations will be important factors in understanding the significance of these new findings.

For more information: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/modis_fluorescence.html

Brazilian beef industry blamed for Amazon deforestation

From: Merco Press
Published June 1, 2009 09:52 AM

Boots and training shoes are not the first things that spring to mind when you think about the causes of rainforest destruction and climate change, but just because the connection isn’t obvious doesn’t mean it isn’t realm, says Greenpeace in a new report, "Slaughtering the Amazon".

But it's not only shoes. Products as diverse as handbags and ready meals, and companies as big as Tesco, BMW, IKEA and Kraft also rely on Amazon leather. Practically all Western world consumers have some by-product of Amazon destruction in our homes somewhere, whether we like it or not. Effectively, these brands are driving this destruction by buying beef and leather products from unscrupulous suppliers in Brazil points out the Greenpeace report.

The report says the cattle industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world as trees are cleared to make way for ranches. And the Brazilian government is also fuelling the process by offering billions of dollars in loans to support the expansion of the cattle industry. President Lula de Silva has pledged to double his country's share of the global beef market by 2018. The report contrasts these investments with Lula da Silva's recent promise to cut deforestation by 72% by the same date and to set up an international fund for protecting the Amazon.

Global Bird Species in Serious Decline

From: Ben Block, Worldwatch Institute, More from this Affiliate
Published June 2, 2009 06:44 AM

Researchers have known about the speckled brown Sidamo lark for only 40 years. Always a rare sight, the elusive bird may soon vanish from the prairie grasses of Ethiopia forever.

Its habitat already restricted to less than 100 square kilometers, the lark is rapidly losing territory as local residents, the Borana ethnic group, convert grassland into heavily grazed pasture. Unless the Borana are allowed to resume their nomadic ways, within the next few years the Sidamo lark will likely become the first known bird species to vanish from mainland Africa, researchers say.

"We estimate there are fewer than 250 adult individuals left," said Claire Spottiswoode, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. "In the absence of urgent conservation action on the ground, it is only a matter of time before it goes extinct; no other species on the continent seems to face quite such an imminent fate."

The Sidamo lark is among the most endangered birds included on the Red List of Threatened Species, which the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) updated last month for global bird species and for European amphibians and reptiles.

The IUCN Red List, considered the authority on the status of the world's plant and animal species, now includes 1,227 bird species (12 percent of known birds) as threatened with extinction - 192 of them critically endangered.

Habitat loss, climate change, and the spread of invasive species are the main threats to avian biodiversity, the conservation organization said.

"In global terms, things continue to get worse," said Leon Bennun, director of science and policy for BirdLife International, which conducted the updated research. "But there are some real conservation success stories this year to give us hope and point the way forward."
IUCN upgraded three bird species from "critically endangered" to "endangered" due to successful habitat protection strategies. Among the advances, a 2007 survey found that the bright blue Lear's macaw of Brazil had expanded to a population size of 750, after being reduced to only 70 wild individuals in the late 1980s.

The Red List was also updated with a continent-wide assessment of Europe's amphibians and reptiles.

Amphibians are in particular danger. Habitat loss is threatening nearly all of the continent's species, with nearly 60 percent in decline and 23 percent classified as threatened. Pollution, including climate change, and invasive species are leading causes of biodiversity loss as well.

Article continues: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6123

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