Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bush bashed over vapid climate conference

Time Magazine reported on the White House organised Climate Change Conference. They were rather unflattering of Bush, and set him up as a foil for Clinton to do what he does best. Shine.

Look at the photos accompanying the article.

Clinton looks steely and resolved, Bush defensive ... hunched. Clinton's jaw is firmly set, in contrast to the slack-jawed look of Bush, which is unfortunately what can happen when one is photographed mid-sentence. He is looking down, Clinton is looking forwards. George is looking a mite wan against Bill's robust complexion.

If you think I am letting my biases get in the way of my judgement, you should read Time Magazine reporter and resident climate change geek, Jason Decrow.

Start with the headline — Climate Change: Filling the Bush Gap. Positioned above Bush's photo, the aforementioned gap seems to refer to the one between his hears. Very unfairly too.

Reporting on Bush:

You could Amtrak down to the White House and hear President George W. Bush tell the world's major economies that this global warming thing might actually be a problem and that we should maybe consider doing something about it eventually.

No hint of scorn for Clinton:

Of the three, it was the Clinton meeting that proved the best bet —


As part of his Clinton Climate Initiative, launched in August 2006, the former President has brought together business and philanthropy to generate locally focused efforts to reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

While President Bush offered mostly empty rhetoric, on Friday afternoon Clinton reeled off pledge after concrete pledge for his climate initiative: $150 million to harness geothermal energy in Africa, $5 million for the Alliance for Climate Protection in the U.S., $210 million for carbon offsetting in the developing world.

While UN action on climate change remains stalled by the deadlock between the developed and the developing world, Clinton has proved remarkably successful in fostering real engagement and investment on global warming across national lines. "Clinton just really gets it," says Ted Nordhaus, co-author of the new environmental politics book Break Through.

Good to see some balanced journalism, the type where you call a spade a spade.

Australia don't follow US climate policy failure — ACF

It seems I am not out-of-line describing Australia as the lap-dog of the US when it comes to climate policy, although Don Henry put it more diplomatically, when commenting on the White House-sponsored climate change conference, the Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change in Washington.

Don Henry, executive director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, said Australia needed to stop copying the US position on climate change immediately.

"It is disappointing the conference has not delivered,'' Mr Henry said.

''(US) President Bush is still resisting setting binding targets or commitments on greenhouse gas emissions.

"He wants the flexibility of voluntary targets.

"The US is the world's biggest climate laggard and are holding up global action on climate change.''

Mr Henry said Mr Bush's climate change policies were "disastrous'' and Australia had to "disconnect'' itself from them. "More than any other country on Earth we should tackle this issue seriously with our water supplies at risk and the Great Barrier Reef,'' he said.

"At the conference every developed country has taken on board binding targets and every developing country has committed to cleaning up their economy and set long-term aspirational goals.

"The only two that have not are Australia and the US who have not ratified the Kyoto Protocol and stand out like sore thumbs.''

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Global warming boon for brain-eating amoeba

Sensational headline — one with some basis in fact:

"This is definitely something we need to track," said Michael Beach, a specialist in recreational waterborne illnesses for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."This is a heat-loving amoeba. As water temperatures go up, it does better," Beach said. "In future decades, as temperatures rise, we'd expect to see more cases."

The villain is a killer amoeba, Naegleria fowleri (nuh-GLEER-ee-uh FOWL'-erh-eye), that enters the body through the nose and attacks the brain where it feeds until you die. The good news is that it has only killed six boys and young men this year, the bad news is that this is a spike; it has killed 23 people in the United States, from 1995 to 2004.

The other bad news is that it's only getting hotter.

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Emissions reductions — aspirationals miss the binding obvious

Condoleeza Rice sounds as convincing a leader on climate change, as she is on the Palestinian crisis. But at least she knows that others regard her warily:

THE US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, has tried to assuage European and green group concerns the US is trying to hijack the United Nations process for developing a new global deal on climate change. "I want to stress that the United States takes climate change very seriously," Dr Rice said at the start of a two-day conference. "Managing the status quo is simply not an adequate response."

Oh goodie... they are now up to speed in Washington. So how to they plan to respond?

But she repeated that the US did not support binding targets on individual countries - a key difference between the US and European position.

Oh — back to the status quo. "Yip, yip, yippy", yapped her lap-dog Downer-Under, issuing discombobulated climate policy like flying fur-ball:

Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Alexander Downer, predicted that Australia, like the European Union, Canada and Japan, would ultimately embrace binding targets. This was because it was essential to make the Coalition's proposed carbon trading scheme work, he said. "In our case, the way the binding target will work, we'll set next year an aspirational goal, then to make that work, we have to get the emissions trading scheme into operation and you have to have binding targets under an emissions trading scheme, otherwise you can't create a price for carbon," Mr Downer said.

The South Africans don't sound too convinced by the conviction of the Kyoto Protocol hold-outs.

Critics have questioned whether the US approach of voluntary targets would work. "We appreciate the sentiments expressed by Secretary Rice, but the devil is always in the detail," said South Africa's Environment Minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk.

The Europeans are wary of a process that circumvented the United Nations. They were right about Iraq; they are right about climate change. A target is not a target if it is not binding. If it is not binding, if it is an aspirational target, it is a mere wish.
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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Arctic thaw yeilds mammoth rewards for fossil hunters

Alarming story:
clipped from

ONE day, climate change could cost the earth. For now, it is a
nice little earner for Russian hunter Alexander Vatagin.

In Siberia's northernmost reaches, well above the Arctic Circle,
the changing temperature is thawing the permafrost to reveal the
bones of prehistoric animals such as mammoths, woolly rhinos and
lions that have lay buried for thousands of years.

Private collectors and scientific institutes will pay huge sums
for the right specimen, and bone prospectors such as Mr Vatagin
have turned this region, eight time zones from Moscow, into a
paleontological Klondyke.

"Last year someone was paid 800,000 roubles ($36,755) for a
mammoth head with two tusks in great condition," Mr Vatagin

Prehistoric bones are easy to spot. The permafrost is thawing so
rapidly that in certain places in the tundra, bones poke through
the soil every few metres. Some lie on the surface.
"From the point of view of humanity, it
would have been better if this had never happened."
 blog it

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Australia most global warming aware. No, really!

I've come across this before, but it still catches me by surprise — the fact that Australians are at the forefront of global warming consciousness. A September poll by World Public shows that, despite our fossil-fuel fixated Government's penchant for future non-binding emissions targets we, the governed, want proper action now. A whopping ninety-two percent of us.

Twelve countries were asked whether steps should be taken to address climate change and majorities in all but one of them favored action. The largest majority in favor of measures to combat global warming is found in Australia (92%).

China and Israel are the next most likely (83%) to favor such measures. Eighty percent of respondents in the United States—the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases—also support taking such measures. The lowest level of support for taking steps to address the problem is found in India, nonetheless nearly half (49%) favor taking action while just 24 percent oppose it (26% do not answer).

In no country (out of 12 asked) does more than one in four endorse the statement, “Until we are sure that global warming is really a problem, we should not take any steps that would have economic costs.” The countries where the highest percentages favor delaying any action are India (24%), Russia (22%) and Armenia (19%). The countries with the lowest are Argentina (3%), and Thailand (7%).

How is it that we ended up so ahead of the curve for climate change, despite the long-standing counter-efforts of our Kyoto Protocol combatant of a Federal Government?

It's tempting to go for the low-hanging fruit and put it down to an outdoor lifestyle that allows us to connect with nature, or some other self-congratulatory nod to some aspect of Aussiedom. But I think it has more to do with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation inspired drought we endured. It impacted the countryside the worst, but even the comfortable suburbs of all major cities copped it in the daily image stream of cracked earth and farmers kicking the dirt. Soon the seriousness was driven home by domestic water-restrictions as local dam levels dropped alarmingly.

We responded. The masses let it mellow if it were yellow,and the immediate reaction of the wealthy was to ward-off zealous water-inspectors with signs indicating a bore had been sunk for garden irrigation. In time the water-inspectors appeared less Orwellian and somehow fitted in with the spate of suburban gardens that abandoned their thirsty, mother-country heritage to go native. Grey water was redirected over lawns, and Australia showered with a bucket to catch the cumulative waste. While the water drummed down on this latest symbol of a changed world, the plastic bucket, and we stared at the unhelpful dribbling from the water-efficient shower heads, our entire citizenry had daily opportunities to consider how things got to this stage. That's perhaps how ninety two percent of us decided that we are living through global warming induced climate change. A newly enlightened media, and Al Gore's phenomenally successful An Inconvenient Truth only confirmed our suspicions.

Giving this theory weight is that we did save a lot of domestic water. In Sydney I remember being down 25 percent on the previous year's consumption atone stage. The year-to-year worsening of the bush fire seasons also helped — another dramatic, big ticket item for the evening news that is easily linked to global warming.

In summary, I believe that a reason for our high awareness, is because our continent is highly susceptible to the effects of climate change. And it's only going to get worse. So close to the election there is no way John Howard's latest ploys to delay emissions targes are going to fly— in this climate.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Berks in our backyard

Looks like we have our very own astroturfing outfit in Australia called the Australian Environment Foundation (AEF). Don Burke of Burk's Backyard is the chairman, and he chairs a quality crew — some of whom are presenting at their Rydges Carlton meeting in Melbourne over the next two days. Andrew Bolt is pumped and pumping (tyres apparently).

Prof Bob Carter, the environmental scientist, will talk on the “myths of climate change”, showing it’s not clear man is to blame for any warming.

Entomologist Rick Roush will explain the benefits of biotechnology in a state that has—for no rational reason—banned genetically modified food crops that have been grown safely by our big competitors for years.

Ziggy Switkowski, who led an inquiry into nuclear power, will again prove that if we want electricity that doesn’t emit greenhouse gases, we can’t beat nuclear, so ignore the scares.

And Gunns’ resources manager will tell why the $2 billion pulp mill it hopes to build in Tasmania’s Tamar Valley is not the poisonous menace that green crusaders are trying to paint.

Wonder if we can reverse engineer the list of industries and special interest groups that provide funding for the AEF? Let's see, Bob Carter... well, he does not believe in global warming, so that would be a fossil fuel industry link. Then we have the GM industry, the nuclear industry and, well, Gunns. I didn't want to mentions companies they are well known, but there you go, Gunns. They are linked to the Institute of Public Affairs. Hardly your environmentally minded group. More your right-wing think tank.

Here's the programme. Oh, and here are the sponsors: Monsanto (GM), and Auscott Limited among them.

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