Saturday, 27 June 2009
An academic has refused an all expenses paid trip to a conference in Washington to discuss tackling carbon emissions.
Larch Maxey of Swansea University described the invite to the Smithsonian Festival, which this year focuses on Wales, as the "irony of our times."
He said the plane journey across the Atlantic would use several years' worth of his carbon share and now others invited to attend have followed suit.
Instead they taking part in the event via video link.
Some have chosen to fly to attend but Dr Maxey said there was "no finger pointing."
"It is a great opportunity to showcase Wales," he added.
"To be fair to the organisers they looked at getting everyone to the conference by boat but it was not possible.
I would encourage everyone to think about their carbon emissions
Dr Larch Maxey
"If I had flown it's more than my share of carbon emissions for a couple of years."
He said he had been avoiding flying for around 15 years and those conferences he could not reach by rail, bus or boat he turned down.
'I regularly use phone and video conference meetings, but this is the first time I've used it to present at an international conference.
"It's really empowering to be able to make the choice.
"I would encourage everyone to think about their carbon emissions.
"We have to do everything we can as soon as we can and everyone has to play their part."
The conference, organised by the Wales' Centre for Alternative Technology, was taking place on Thursday and Friday.
Other key speakers including assembly government environment minister Jane Davidson and Molly Scott Cato of the University of Wales Cardiff, will also have their presentations streamed by staff at Swansea University.
Dr. Maxey's presentation entitled 'The Future in Our Hands: Low Impact Development and Sustainability Transitions' draws on his recent book and current research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust.
Wales is the featured nation at the 43rd Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival and chose to focus on sustainability throughout its programme at the festival.
The US House of Representatives has passed a climate change bill aimed at reducing the country's emissions.
The legislation will put curbs on pollution and apply market principles to attempts to tackle global warming.
It was passed by a narrow margin of 219 votes to 212. President Barack Obama said the vote represented "enormous progress".
But the bill still has to be passed by the US Senate before it can become law, and it faces another tough fight.
"Today the House of Representatives took historic action with the passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act," Mr Obama said after the vote.
"It's a bold and necessary step that holds the promise of creating new industries and millions of new jobs, decreasing our dangerous dependence on foreign oil."
Correspondents say the bill was passed after a long and heated session.
US CLIMATE BILL
Bill aims to cut emissions by 17% below the level in 2005 by 2020, then by 83% by 2050
Imposes national limits and requires polluters to acquire emissions permits
Permits are either free (85%) or bought at auction (15%)
Permits can be traded, allowing major polluters to offset surplus emissions
It seeks to cut emissions from 2005 levels by 17% by 2020, introduce a carbon trading system and and force a shift from fossil fuels to renewable sources.
Supporters say it will create a new "green" industry, boosting jobs and innovation, and reduce US dependence on foreign oil.
But opponents of the bill, both Republicans and Democrats, say it will lead to massive job losses in the US and impose greater taxes on every American.
Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner said energy costs would soar, and called the legislation "the biggest job-killing bill that has ever been on the floor of the House".
The battle now moves to the Senate, where correspondents say it will face a rough ride. It is not yet clear when the Senate might debate the bill.
The legislation has been widely supported by environmentalists but there are concerns that it will not go far enough towards addressing climate change.
America is already experiencing the harmful effects of global warming with hotter temperatures, retreating glaciers and rising sea levels, according to the first climate change report from the Barack Obama presidency.
In the strongest language ever to come out of the White House on the issue, the US Global Change Research Programme gave an "unequivocal" warning that climate change would intensify over the next century and "challenge the ability of society and natural systems to adapt".
The study's authors, who include the White House science adviser and other senior officials and academics, painted a far more ominous picture of the effects of global warming than has ever come from a US government.
The 200-page study, a climate status report required periodically by Congress, contains no new research but is far more detailed than the updates put out in the Bush era.
After failing to put out a report since 2000, the Bush administration was forced by legal action from environmental groups to issue a first draft of the report last year which provided the basis for the new one.
Jane Lubchenco, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, called the report a "game changer".
She said it addressed the historic US "foot-dragging" over an issue that many Americans believed only affected remote parts of the planet.
"This report demonstrates that climate change is happening now, in our own backyard, and it affects the things that people care about," she said.
The issue of water – generally a case of too much in the East and too little in the West – is a dominant theme in the study.
Global warming consequences detailed in the study included an increase in heavy downpours, shorter and warmer winters – more than seven degrees (F) warmer in the Midwest – and declining forest growth in the Southwest.
It concluded that heat-related deaths are likely to increase, with such fatalities in Chicago rising tenfold by the end of the century without a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
While warmer winters will benefit farmers by lengthening the growing season, it will also help insects and spreading diseases.
Meanwhile, warmer nights will spell trouble for America's famous maple syrup industry, pushing production north into colder Canada, said the study.
River flows will change and rising sea levels will increase the frequency of airports, roads and tunnels flooding, it said.
The Gulf Coast, where most of the biggest US ports are concentrated, would be particularly at risk.
The report's authors stressed that the chances of preventing such problems would increase if action was taken to slow global warming. Climate-related proposals that would seek to reduce America's enormous carbon footprint are currently before the US Congress.
John Holdren, the White House science adviser, said the study "tells us why remedial action is needed sooner rather than later".
The report compiled years of scientific research from government experts and academics, updating with new data.
In a new report the Environment Agency calculated that 5.2 million of the homes in England are built on a flood plain, near a river or where there is a risk of surface water flooding during heavy rainfall.
Of those properties, 490,000 are at "significant risk" of flooding, which means they have a greater than one in 75 chance of being flooded in any year.
With the situation set to worsen because of climate change, it warns that 840,000 homes will be classed as at "significant risk of flooding" by 2035.
Thousands of health centres and doctors' surgeries, schools and miles of railways and roads are also liable to flooding, according to the agency's Flooding In England report.
The risk of flooding is set to increase due to rising sea levels, more rapid coastal erosion and increasingly severe and frequent rainstorms.
At present, the worst affected local authority is Boston in Lincolnshire where 23,700 properties are at high risk. In the South East of England some 111,356 are seriously threatened with flooding.
To keep a basic level of protection, the Environment Agency suggested it will be necessary to invest £20 billion over the next 25 years in flood defences.
Lord Smith of Finsbury, Chairman of the Environment Agency, said investment was "crucial" to prevent more properties becoming at risk.
"The latest climate change data shows that the risk of flooding and coastal erosion will continue to increase in the future due to rising sea levels and more frequent and heavy storms," he said.
"There are important decisions for us all to take about how to manage these risks to protect people, communities, businesses and the economy in future."
Catastrophic floods and droughts caused by climate change could be prevented simply by putting less water in the kettle, according to new Government advice.
It is estimated that if everyone in the UK stopped using standby on household appliances for a year, it would save the same amount of CO2 caused by the entire population of Glasgow flying to New York and back. If the whole world followed suit, it would avoid one per cent of global CO2 or 240 million tonnes.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
Reposted from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8107014.stm
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News
The UK needs to plan now for a future that will be hotter and bring greater extremes of flood and drought, says Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.
Launching the UK Climate Projections 2009 report (UKCP09), Mr Benn told MPs that the UK climate will change even with a global deal on emissions.
By 2080, London will be between 2C and 6C hotter than it is now, he said.
Every part of the UK is likely to be wetter in winter and drier in summer, according to the projections.
Summer rainfall could decrease by about 20% in the south of England and in Yorkshire and Humberside by the middle of the century.
These projections show us the future we need to avoid, and the future we need to plan for
Scotland and the north-west of England could see winter rainfall increase by a similar amount.
The government hopes UKCP09 will allow citizens, local authorities and businesses to plan for future decades.
It uses computer models of the world's climate to make projections of parameters such as temperature, rainfall and wind.
"Climate change is going to transform the way we live," said Mr Benn.
"These projections show us the future we need to avoid, and the future we need to plan for."
UK CLIMATE PROJECTIONS
- An increase of 16% in winter rainfall in the North West, increasing the amount of rain on the wettest days leading to higher flood risk
- Average summer rainfall could decrease by 22% in the already water-stressed southern England
- By the 2080s, average summer temperatures could be up to six degrees warmer in parts of southern England
"These projections show us the future we need to avoid, and the future we need to plan for."
UK CLIMATE PROJECTIONS
An effective global deal at December's UN climate talks in Copenhagen could keep the summer temperature rise in southern England to about 2C, the projections suggest.
But if greenhouse gas emissions rise quickly, that figure could be as high as 12C, Mr Benn said.
The UK Met Office, which led the scientific analysis, says UKCP09 is the "most comprehensive set of probabilistic climate projections at the regional scale compiled anywhere in the world".
FROM THE WORLD AT ONE
Scientists collated data from 400 variations of the climate computer model developed by the Hadley Centre, part of the Met Office.
Each variant has been checked to see how well it predicted the climate of past decades; and the numbers have been compared with projections of other computer models.
This allowed scientists to assign probabilities to various forecasts.
Using a range of online tools including a "weather generator", people will be able to enter their postcodes and see projections of how conditions are likely to change within 25 sq km grid squares at different points in the future.
But some climate scientists have reservations about trying to project the future on such a detailed scale.
"If your decisions depend on what's happening at these very fine scales of 25 km or even 5 km resolution then you probably shouldn't be making irreversible investment decisions now," commented Myles Allen of Oxford University, one of the UK's leading climate modellers.
But the idea of the impact assessment has been well received by environment groups.
"It's great that the government has decided to put together such a scientifically robust analysis of the potential impacts of climate change in the UK," said Keith Allott, head of climate change at WWF-UK.
"But the picture it paints is an alarming one,"
"This research confirms that not only is climate change already having a serious impact in Britain, but that we are also locked into further impacts, and that these impacts will get much worse unless we act now to tackle the problem."
Campaigners say that the UK impacts are likely to be minor compared to other parts of the world.
Last month a report from the Global Humanitarian Forum, the think tank chaired by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, said the UK was among the 12 countries likely to be least affected by climate change.
"Life in parts of the UK will get harder, but it will get a great deal harder in countries already suffering the impact of climate change," said Alison Doig, senior climate policy expert with Christian Aid.
"Their plight will worsen dramatically unless the international community wakes up to the fact that a full-blown emergency is looming."
On Friday, the Environment Agency will release an assessment of how the changing climate will affect the risk of impacts such as flooding in England and Wales.
Commenting on the UKCP09 projections, Environment Agency chairman Chris Smith said:
"These new projections remind us starkly of the choices we face in ensuring a sustainable future for our fragile planet.
"A failure to cut greenhouse gas emissions will lead to a battle for survival for mankind and many other species across the globe by the end of this century; and we will feel the effects here in the UK too."
The agency is likely to recommend measures that would protect areas of the UK, and sectors of the economy, against climate impacts such as flooding.