Friday, 23 October 2009

The View from Vanuatu on Climate Change

Torethy Frank had never heard of global warming. She is worried about power and running water.
Global warming is a serious challenge that has captured the world's attention. But in the areas that will be worst hit by climate change, what do locals value and want prioritized?
The tiny island nation of Vanuatu speaks with a big voice on global warming, calling for larger countries to make immediate carbon cuts.
In a warning often repeated by environmental campaigners, the Vanuatuan president told the United Nations that entire island nations could be submerged. "If such a tragedy does happen," he said, "then the United Nations and its members would have failed in their first and most basic duty to a member nation and its innocent people."
Torethy Frank, a 39-year-old woman carving out a subsistence lifestyle on Vanuatu's Nguna Island, is one of those "innocent people." Yet, she has never heard of the problem that her government rates as a top priority. "What is global warming?" she asks a researcher for the Copenhagen Consensus Center.
Ms. Frank has more immediate concerns—problems that are not spoken about on the world stage, and that do not attract the attention of the media or environmental advocates.
Torethy and her family of six live in a small house made of concrete and brick with no running water. As a toilet, they use a hole dug in the ground. They have no shower and there is no fixed electricity supply. Torethy's family was given a battery-powered DVD player but cannot afford to use it.
Three of Torethy's four teenage children have never spent a day in school. The eldest attended classes on another island, which cost Torethy and her husband 12,000 vatu ($110) a year, but she now makes him stay home because "too many of the kids at the school were smoking marijuana."
Three years ago, an outbreak of malaria ravaged Torethy's village, Utanlang. The mosquito-borne illness is a big problem in Vanuatu, although aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is helping. This deadly disease causes fever, headaches and vomiting, and can disrupt the blood supply to vital organs.
One small clinic in Utanlang provides basic medicines like painkillers and bandages. For real medical care, Torethy must travel to the capital, Port Vila. In perfect conditions, that involves a 30-minute boat trip and then a two-hour car ride. Because the villagers are too poor to own any boats other than outrigger canoes, it can take up to five hours.
To get by, Torethy's village sells a few fish, fruit and baskets in mainland Vanuatu. But after paying for transport, little money is made. Torethy has learned that "it's best to return with no money and nothing new," because otherwise other villagers ask for their share.
The government, too, takes its cut in the form of tax. "But it doesn't give anything back," Torethy says. "No education, no power, no water, no transportation, no health care. Why should we pay them?"
Torethy's life would not be transformed by foreign countries making immediate carbon cuts.
What would change her life? Having a boat in the village to use for fishing, transporting goods to sell, and to get to hospital in emergencies. She doesn't want more aid money because, "there is too much corruption in the government and it goes in people's pockets," but she would like microfinance schemes instead. "Give the money directly to the people for businesses so we can support ourselves without having to rely on the government."
Vanuatu's politicians speak with a loud voice on the world stage. But the inhabitants of Vanuatu, like Torethy Frank, tell a very different story.
Mr. Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank, and author of "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" (Knopf, 2007).

China and India agree to cooperate on climate change policy

Countries will coordinate efforts on renewable energy and research into the effects of climate change in the Himalayas
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Thursday 22 October 2009 16.33 BST
China and India have signed a pact to coordinate their approach to climate negotiations and some domestic policies.
The world's two most populous nations signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday ahead of back-to-back summits between their leaders and US president Barack Obama next month.
The two nations will also form a joint working group that will meet once a year to coordinate policies. And they will cooperate on renewable energy and research into the effects of climate change on Himalayan glaciers.
But the timing of the announcement highlights the importance of maintaining at least a show of unity on the climate issue, despite heightened tensions between the two nations. China and India are among the leaders of the G77 bloc of developing nations, who have consistently argued that they should not be obliged to set internationally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gases because richer nations have a far greater historical responsibility for the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
But with China now the world's biggest emitter and India the fourth, one of the central goals of the Copenhagen summit is to find a formula that encourages these nations to make verifiable commitments to tackle climate change while leaving room for their economies to develop. The United States hopes to make progress towards a breakthrough when Obama meets China's president Hu Jintao in Beijing on November 16-17 and then plays host to India's prime minister Manmohan Singh at the White House on November 24.
But many inside these Asian nations are wary of efforts to make emerging economies break ranks. Earlier this week, the Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh was castigated by the local media and opposition parties for supposedly considering a softening of India's negotiating position.
Ramesh has since clarified there is no change in Indian policy or its alliance with other developing nations. At the signing ceremony for the memorandum yesterday, he stressed: "There is no difference between the Indian and Chinese negotiating positions and we are discussing further what the two countries should be doing for a successful outcome at Copenhagen."
New Delhi has also sought reassurance from Beijing that China will not sign a bilateral deal with the US that runs contrary to G77 goals. At the signing ceremony, Xie Zhenhua, China's vice-chairman of National Development and Reform Commission and the country's top climate change negotiator, tried to soothe such concerns: "We regard India as a sincere, devoted friend and the MoU [memorandum of understanding] on climate change will take our cooperation on the issue to a new high."
Indian and Chinese climate campaigners welcomed the show of solidarity. "This is a good sign that developing nations are sticking together despite pressure from developed nations," said Siddharth Pathak, climate and energy campaigner of Greenpeace India. "They will not allow themselves to bullied by other countries."
Shirish Sinha, the head of the climate change programme at WWF India said the two nations faced common challenges in ensuring energy security and reducing poverty that set them apart from wealthier economies.
"It is largely in the interests of both countries given the pressure coming on them to take action, to really come together," he said. Despite the apparent hardening of positions and the lack of time before Copenhagen, climate negotiators said they had not given up hope of a positive outcome."
"I think the Copenhagen talks will eventually come up with something. So many people have been working on it for such a long time, and the whole world is watching, there will be something," said Liu Bin a climate expert at Tsinghua University and Chinese negotiator.
"I am getting a little more hopeful," said Chung Rae-Kwon, the climate change ambassador for South Korea. "I think we are getting progress in finding an agreement."
South Korea has proposed a compromise under which developing nations would register domestic actions to slow the growth of emissions. Although these targets would not be internationally binding, they would be subject to outside verification.
It is unclear, however, whether a suitable formula can be found in time to persuade India, China and the United States to sign up at Copenhagen. Preparatory talks last month in Bangkok ended in acrimonious squabbles.
"Time is running out," said Yang Fuqiang, the director of the climate change and energy programme of WWF China. "It's possible that all we will get at Copenhagen is a political declaration and an agreement to extend the process."
A key to any agreement is for the US Senate to ratify a climate bill before the country's negotiators go to Copenhagen. Former vice-president Al Gore, who is spearheading efforts to get a bill passed, told an audience in Beijing yesterday that he was confident of success, but he cautioned against over-expectation.
He said any global pact reached in Copenhagen was bound to disappoint many people, but it would be a step forward that could be strengthened at a later date once the business community received a signal that they would have to change their ways. "I choose to be optimistic," he said.

World carbon emissions, by country: new data released

The US is no longer number one emitter of carbon dioxide, having been overtaken by China in these latest figures. But when did it happen?• Get the data
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• 15:45 update: Percapita data now added
Which country is number one in carbon emissions? Up until very recently, it was the US - now, it is indisputedly China, as shown by this data.
These are the latest figures - up to 2007 - from the respected US Energy Information Administration. This has (literally) every country in the world on it and its emissions going back to 1980 — plus we've put on some handy percentage change data and ranking information.
The curious thing is, we've been here before. Last year we reported that China had overtaken the US in 2006. But if you look at the figures below, the change now appears to have happened in 2007. What's going on?
We asked the EIA and this is what they said:
Each year we review the underlying consumption data for petroleum, natural gas, and coal and the flaring data for natural gas and make any necessary revisions. These, in turn, affect our CO2 emissions estimates. I think that most of the change for China was due to revisions to our coal consumption data. Coal consumption is a calculated value based on production, imports, exports, and stock change and when measured in Btus is also affected by the types of coal consumed (i.e. anthracite, bituminous, and lignite). Data for the most recent year are often preliminary and most subject to revision but data for earlier years are also often revised.
Of course, these aren't all emissions - just consumption of engergy, which accounts for 60% of the total. But they give a good picture of what is going on.
Because of the interest, the EIA are going to come up with 2008 figures at the end of this year or early 2010. Then we will see exactly how fast China has grown. In the meantime, as we countdown to Copenhagen, these figures will become even more important.
We've added in the %-change since 1990 - the Kyoto benchmark. What can you do with the numbers?

Britain finds its voice on green issues for ordinary people

The Energy Saving Trust's competition shows it's high time ordinary people were involved in dialogue on climate change
If you happened to pass by College Green near the Houses of Parliament yesterday morning you may have witnessed a bizarre sight. In the middle of the lawn, a grinning woman was perched upon a green and gold throne, dressed in a vivid green sash and posing for a group of photographers.
No, it wasn't Katie Price or Miss World. It was me - a blogger from Billericay in Essex. I have just won a competition run by the Energy Saving Trust to find the Green Voice of the UK. The Trust has been looking for someone to speak up for the man or woman on the street on green issues, as well as become an independent voice on low carbon living.
And, after 100 entries were whittled down to four finalists, I was selected. The last time I won anything it was a packet of biscuits in a church raffle. I had to give a speech and then grill the minister of state for energy and climate change, Joan Ruddock on her green policies. No pressure, then.
But I am very excited and looking forward to getting stuck into my role. It's high time that ordinary people – not just politicians or experts - were involved in the dialogue on climate change. We know the planet is in jeopardy, and we each have our part to playing in saving it, so what is stopping us from introducing more energy saving measures around our homes and businesses?
Are people worried about the cost implications in the recession? Are they confused about the options or just tired of being nagged? I want to talk directly to people and hear their concerns because it's vital that the Green Voice of the UK is also an ear. I think we need to pinpoint obstacles preventing us from going green before we can encourage more people to do so. We must also find ways to make it easier to save energy and recycle items. By engaging directly with people in the UK, we may come up with some innovative new suggestions and schemes.
I am not an eco-warrior by any means. My partner Douglas and I try to live a thrifty lifestyle – I write a Frugal Life blog and recently wrote a book on spending less and living more. We grow our own veg, keep chickens, and save as much water as we can. But, like many other people, I still have bad habits.
Feel free to get in touch via the comments below, the Energy Saving Trust's website, my Twitter profile or my blog to tell me your concerns about saving energy or to send me your ideas and suggestions.

Interview: Ken Caldeira on geo-engineering's possibilities and pitfalls

Climate scientist Ken Caldeira talks about why he believes the world needs to better understand which geo-engineering schemes might work and which are fantasy. From Yale Environment 360, part of the Guardian Environment Network
Atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira first became known for his groundbreaking work on ocean acidification, a phrase originally coined as a headline for one of his papers. Of late, however, Caldeira's research has led him into the controversial area of geo-engineering — the large-scale, deliberate manipulation of the Earth's climate system.
Many scientists have shied away from the subject because they feel it is a wrongheaded and dangerous path to pursue. But Caldeira — who heads a research lab at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University — has not been so dismissive, in part because his climate modeling has demonstrated that some geo-engineering schemes may indeed help reduce the risk of climate change. In fact, few scientists have thought harder about the moral, political, and environmental implications of geo-engineering.
Caldeira has become a focal point recently in the controversy surrounding the publication of Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's SuperFreakonomics, the follow-up to their previous best-seller, Freakonomics. A chapter of the book that deals with geo-engineering and quoted Caldeira was circulated on the Internet prior to the book's publication and was widely criticized for its poor understanding of climate science and its cynical, contrarian perspective.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360, conducted by author Jeff Goodell, who is working on a book about geo-engineering, Caldeira spoke about how his work was misrepresented in SuperFreakonomics, as well as the prospects — and pitfalls — of plans to engineer the planet's climate system. He views geo-engineering as a last resort, one fraught with risks and unintended consequences. What if, for example, industrialized nations decide to inject heat-reflecting dust into the stratosphere and set off a climate reaction that causes drought and famine in India and China? For this and many other reasons, Caldeira argues that sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions is by far the most prudent course.
Still, given the huge volume of carbon dioxide that humanity continues to pour into the atmosphere, Caldeira says it would be folly not to undertake research into geo-engineering. With the prospect that the world could reach a level of dangerous warming this century, Caldeira maintains it's necessary to determine which projects — such as putting particles in the stratosphere to reflect sunlight into space — might work and which will not. He likens geo-engineering schemes to seatbelts — a technology that might reduce the chance of injury in case of a climate crash.
But, warned Caldeira, "Thinking of geo-engineering as a substitute for emissions reduction is analogous to saying, 'Now that I've got the seatbelts on, I can just take my hands off the wheel and turn around and talk to people in the back seat.' It's crazy."
Yale Environment 360: I want to start with this little dust-up over SuperFreakonomics. In the book, you are quoted as saying, when it comes to global warming, "Carbon dioxide is not the right villain." Is that accurate?
Ken Caldeira: That is not accurate. I don't believe I said anything remotely like that because I believe that we should be outlawing the production of devices that emit carbon dioxide, and I don't think we can solve this carbon climate problem unless we drastically reduce our carbon dioxide emissions very soon.
e360: They also write that you are convinced that human activity is responsible for "some" global warming. What does that mean?
Caldeira: I don't think we can say with certainty whether we're responsible for 90 percent of it or we might be responsible for 110 percent of it. But the vast majority of global warming, I believe, is due to human release of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
e360: Another thing that plays in to the same kind of sensibility is the idea that the doubling of CO2 traps less than 2 percent of the outgoing radiation emitted by the Earth. When that's phrased like that, it makes it sound like it's not really much of a problem.
Caldeira: You should think of the whole global warming problem as a 1 percent problem, at least for doubling of CO2. In absolute temperature Kelvin — scientists like to use the Kelvin scale — the current Earth temperature is around 288 degrees Kelvin, and a 3-degree warming on top of that is basically a one-percent additional warming. And so this whole issue of climate change, when viewed from an Earth-system perspective, is a story about 1 percents and 2 percents. Two percent might sound like a small number, but that's the difference between a much hotter world, and the kind of world we're accustomed to.
e360: The authors also cite you as saying that a doubling of CO2 yields a 70-percent increase in plant growth, suggesting it would be a boon to agricultural activity. It sounds like one of those old CO2-is-good-for-you ads. Can you explain that?
Caldeira: Yes, first of all, there are two parts of that. One is the 70-percent increase in plant growth. And that came out of a paper that we produced, I believe, in 2005.
We took a model and emitted all of the carbon dioxide available in fossil fuel resources, and that model — which has a very low climate sensitivity, and what I would consider a hyperactive land biosphere — produced 9-degree Centigrade warming globally and 20 degrees around East Antarctica.
Now that's 16 degrees Fahrenheit globally, and something like 36 degrees around Antarctica, which could be enough to threaten the ice sheet. For that study we knew that the land biosphere model was overactive and taking up too much CO2, but we felt that was conservative to the hypothesis we were addressing, because if you had a biosphere that took up less CO2, it would only make the planet even warmer.
So we were showing, look, even if CO2 fertilization is at the high end of anybody's imagination, we still produce rather frightening temperatures. But I do believe the basic sign is correct, that with more CO2, plants can use water more efficiently, and even the IPCC [International Panel on Climate Change] says that agricultural productivity is expected to go up with global warming.
But that will not be distributed uniformly. It's thought that agricultural productivity will increase in the mid and high latitudes, where warmer weather will help the plants grow, but will decrease productivity in the poor equatorial nations where heat is already stressing crop yield.
e360: Overall, do you feel like your work has been accurately and fairly represented in this book?
Caldeira: The main misrepresentation is the quote that says that CO2 is not "the right villain." Now, again, I don't use "villain" talk myself, but if you say what's the primary gas responsible for the planetary warming, I would say it's carbon dioxide.
Now, there's a tougher question when it comes to the other statements that are attributed to me. All of those other statements are based in fact and based on studies that either I have published or other scientists have published. And if we pull back to the case of the biosphere taking up 70 percent of CO2 — well, yes, we have a published study that said that. It also presented results saying that we might warm up the planet enough to risk melting Antarctica ultimately. And so there is a selective use of quotes.
If you spend several hours talking to somebody and they take a half-dozen things and put it in a book, then it's going to be in the context and framing of arguments that the authors are trying to make. And so the actual statements attributed to me are based on fact, but the contexts and the framing of those issues are very different from the context and framing that I would put those same facts in...
So I think that the casual reader can... come up with a misimpression of what I believe and what I feel about things.
e360: Let's talk a little bit more broadly about geo-engineering. I was struck by something one of the authors said on NPR the other day — that he got interested in geo-engineering when he realized that the problem with global warming is not that there is too much carbon in the air; it's that it is too hot. Do you agree with that?
Caldeira: The reason it is too hot is that there is too much carbon dioxide in the air. Now the carbon dioxide itself, of course, has big negative implications for ocean acidification and ecosystems, including coral reefs. So there are direct CO2 effects.
But I think if we had some magic thing that would reverse all effects of CO2 perfectly, then you could say, "Well the problem is not CO2." But nobody really expects that we are going to have some magic, perfect CO2 nullifier. And it's clear to me that if we continue allowing greenhouse gas concentration to grow in the atmosphere, and try to engineer our climate to counteract those effects, that as the greenhouse gases accumulate, and our counteracting system grows ever larger and larger, that the risk of some kind of catastrophic failure of this offsetting — or the imperfections in this offsetting — would grow in time and the net result would be pretty negative, I would imagine.
So, I do see CO2 as the problem. I think to present it as if, "Well, it not's really CO2, but the effects of CO2," it's like if you got shot by a bullet and you said, "Well, it wasn't really the bullet that was the problem, it was just that I happened to have this hole through my body..."
e360: Right. Well, a lot of people think of geo-engineering as a quick and cheap fix for global warming. Is it?
Caldeira: Let's pretend for a moment that putting dust in the stratosphere is easy to do and works reasonably well. And let's say the United States and England and the "Coalition of the Willing" decided to go ahead and deploy this system, and that China or India then went into a decade or two of deep drought. Whether the system caused that drought or not, I think the Chinese or the Indians would rightly suspect that the reason they have this drought and ensuing famines might be due to this system that was put up by these other countries. And you could easily imagine that there would be a great amount of political tension, and possibly even leading to warfare. So I think just the political dimensions and the governance dimensions of these geo-engineering options suggest that we would be very reluctant to deploy these things, even if we thought they worked more or less perfectly.
Another example is that, in many climate model simulations, the area around Egypt tends to get wetter with global warming. And so what if you do this geo-engineering scheme and it takes away water from countries that didn't have water a few centuries ago? Are they are going to be happy you're doing this? So I think just the political problems associated with perceived winners and losers are so great that a politician is not going to want to deal with these problems.
Then, of course, the system is not going to work perfectly. First of all, it's not going to address the issues of ocean acidification. It's not going to perfectly offset global warming, so you'll have some residual effects. So, I look at these geo-engineering options as something we would only want to consider if our backs were really up against the wall, and where all these environmental and political risks seem worth taking because the alternatives look so frightening.
e360: I know that some scientists have suggested that there should be some kind of taboo on geo-engineering research. But I know that you've been outspoken in the need for a federally-funded geo-engineering research program. Can you explain that?
Caldeira: Yes, I think we don't know right now whether these kinds of approaches have the potential to reduce risk or not. In our climate models, the amount of climate change can be reduced by these kinds of approaches, but the climate models are an imperfect reflection of reality, and they don't consider the kinds of political risks that I was mentioning before. And so I think we just have to say we don't know whether these options can really reduce overall risk…
Let's say geo-engineering doesn't work, and that it would add to risk. It seems to me it would be worth having a research program to demonstrate that beyond a reasonable doubt so we can all forget about this and move on.
On the other hand, if these options do have the potential to reduce risk, then it seems to me that we would like to have the option to reduce that risk should a time come where that would seem necessary. I kind of think of these geo-engineering options as seeing, "Well, can we invent some kind of seatbelts for our climate system?" We need to drive the climate system carefully, we need to greatly reduce emissions. But even if we're driving carefully we still run the risk of getting into an accident. And seatbelts can potentially reduce the damage when we're in an accident.
But the reason I'm concerned about geo-engineering is because I am so concerned about greenhouse gas emissions, and so, again, I'm in favor of essentially making greenhouse gas-emitting devices illegal. But I don't think we're going to reduce emissions fast enough to make me feel that we're not running some really grave risks. And so I think we need to develop options to diminish those risks.
And it's not just geo-engineering. I'm much in favor of a very broad-spectrum approach. I think one of the things we saw with the subprime mortgage crisis is that a few million people in the United States defaulted on their mortgages and we have a worldwide economic crisis. I think we have to assume that climate change damage will be a much bigger amplitude than a few million mortgage defaults.
If there's some kind of climate crisis in Southeast Asia, is that going to amplify and shake the whole global economic system? This is the kind of thing that Jim Lovelock is afraid of, that you'll have "economic migrants" resulting from climate change that will ultimately destabilize modern civilization.
And so I think we also need to be doing research in how do we make our society more robust, so that these local climate damages won't turn into global problems. We need to be doing basic adaptation planning; we need to look at geo-engineering options. But the main thing we need to do is work to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions.
But thinking of geo-engineering as a substitute for emissions reduction is analogous to saying, "Now that I've got the seatbelts on, I can't just take my hands off the wheel and turn around and talk to people in the back seat." It's crazy.
e360: Can you sketch briefly what a geo-engineering research program might look like?
Caldeira: The first thing I would do is use the plural, and say "programs." Because many different things are lumped into the same category of geo-engineering, which I think there's no real good reason to link together.
For example, people like David Keith and Klaus Lackner have been looking at capture of carbon dioxide from the air, which could then be isolated underground in underground storage reservoirs. And this is a kind of slow process that will likely be expensive and take many decades to make a real difference in atmosphere CO2 concentrations. But it's an important line of research that needs to be undertaken. But it won't do any good in the event of an emergency. Maybe after an emergency when we realize we need to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations it would be useful.
But that's very different from, say, putting sulfur dust in the stratosphere, which would reflect sunlight back to space, and cool the Earth, much as Mount Pinatubo did in 1991 and 1992. Again, I think there needs to be a research program on that, but I don't see any reason to couple that with these carbon dioxide removal approaches.
So I think there at least needs to be two new programs — one looking at what are the scalable, fast-acting things we could do in the event of an emergency. What could we do fast that would start the earth cooling within a couple of years if we really wanted to? And then I think we need another research program in saying how can we backpedal out of our high greenhouse gas concentrations. Are there any things we can do to get the greenhouse gases that we've already emitted into the atmosphere out of the atmosphere?
e360: Do you think it's inevitable that we're going to try to engineer the Earth's climate?
Caldeira: First of all, nobody can really see the future, and I'm not foolish enough to try to predict the future. But I think that there's a very decent likelihood that we might go down a slippery slope in this direction. For example, we've done some simulations recently looking at this idea of whitening clouds over the ocean. John Latham has proposed this... Now we
And so I think that there are pathways that we might start regionally and slowly ramp up to something more global. I think that's a possibility.
The other possibility is a real emergency situation where there's a phase change in public opinion, [where] it becomes conventional wisdom that we can't tolerate this climate change any more, that we have to do something.
Whether that will ever happen or not, I don't know. If I had to wager, I would wager that we would never deploy any geo-engineering system, and that we're more likely just to try our best to adapt to it.
But I think there's enough of a risk that it's worth investigating whether there are options to reduce risk and damage.
And the way I look at it is that we're talking here about people's lives, and I don't think we're going to deploy these systems to save polar bears. I think if they're going to be deployed, it's going to be to help people from dying of famines, or something dramatic like that. And I think that these techniques have a potential to save lives and reduce suffering, and we should explore whether that's true or not.
The idea that it would somehow be better to let people starve than to intervene in the climate system, we're presented with that option... It sounds like the moral high ground to say, "Oh, well, we should never interfere with the climate system." But we're obviously interfering with the climate system wholesale now, and it's possible that more intelligent interference could reduce the damage from the first interference. But it could make it worse. I don't think we know, which is why we need the research program.

Government launches map to highlight global warming threat

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Thursday, 22 October 2009
A nightmare in the not-very-distant future: the map below shows the enormous temperature rises which British scientists believe the planet may be experiencing in as a little as 50 years from now if global warming remains unchecked.
Released by the Government today, it illustrates a rise in global average temperature of four degrees Centigrade by 2060, and as such represents a dramatic acceleration of previous forecasts made as recently as 2007 by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The point of the map, launched by the Foreign Secretary David Miliband and the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, his brother Ed, is to show that a four-degree average temperature rise over the whole globe (which takes into account the seas as well as the land surface) equates to very much greater rises over the land alone, especially at higher latitudes – as one goes north or south towards the poles. The darker the colour, the higher the heat increase.
Thus, although Britain may see an average rise of three degrees – which itself would have very damaging consequences in terms of drought and extreme heatwaves – Siberia and northern Canada may experience an immense rise of 12 degrees or even more. Scientists believe this may trigger a climate “tipping point” – the melting of the permafrost under the northern tundras which, if it happened, would release large amounts of trapped methane gas, which in turn would boost global warming yet further.
Over the Arctic Ocean in the far north, the rise might be a colossal 15 or even 16 degrees, which would mean the complete disappearance of all the Arctic ice in summer and spell extinction for ice-dependent wildlife such as polar bears and walruses.

But wildlife is the least of it. The map shows rises of five degrees in Asia, seven degrees in Africa and parts of the US and eight degrees in the Amazon rainforest, all of which will have devastating consequences for some of the world’s poorest people. Rises like this are likely to lead to maize and wheat yields falling by 40 per cent across the world, and rice yields in China, India, Banglasdesh and Indonesia falling by 30 per cent – all at a time when world population is expected to grow from 6.9 billion today to more than 9 billion people.
Water resources are likely to be severely affected by a 70 per cent reduction in run-off around the Mediterranean, southern Africa and large areas of South America, forest fires are likely to be much more dangerous everywhere and warming-induced sea-level rise will affect millions more people in low-lying nations such as Bangladesh.
The IPCC’s latest forecast, issued in 2007, suggested an average rise of 1.8 to four degrees by 2100, but recently Hadley Centre scientists have revised both the extent and the timescale, suggesting that if global warming remains unchecked, a four-degree rise is now possible as early as 2060 – very much in the lifetime of people born today. This is because emissions of carbon dioxide are rising around the world far faster than was anticipated even a few years ago.
In essence, the map represents what researchers now think likely to happen if emissions are not controlled by the world community, which is meeting at Copenhagen in December to try to construct a new global climate treaty.
Speaking at the Science Museum, where the map was launched, the Foreign Secretary warned of a “high pressure” future of water and food shortages, mass migration and conflict if the world failed to tackle the problem. “The reason for publishing this map is that for many people, not only in our own country but around the world, the penny hasn’t yet dropped that this climate change challenge is real, it's happening now,” David Miliband said. The effects were not in “some far flung future” but 4C rises could happen in his children’s lifetime, he said, adding: “And the penny hasn’t dropped that Copenhagen is the chance to address the challenge – on a global scale.”

Outlook from solar companies disappoints investors

Reuters, Thursday October 22 2009
* SunPower disappoints with lowered outlook
* Akeena takes advantage of lower panel costs
* MEMC to acquire commercial solar financier SunEdison
(Adds executive comments)
By Poornima Gupta and Laura Isensee
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct 22 (Reuters) - U.S. solar companies SunPower Corp and Akeena Solar Inc on Thursday posted results that topped Wall Street estimates, but offered little hope the market for the renewable energy source would rebound this year.
The two companies said the solar sector was seeing a slow improvement, but also admitted the industry has yet to overcome the oversupply problems that have driven prices for panels down by about 50 percent in the past 12 months.
"The industry is seeing a much more balanced picture in demand and supply," said SunPower's chief executive, Tom Werner, in an interview.
SunPower, which posted lower net income and trimmed its full-year earnings forecast to the low end of its previous range, said the financing environment for solar projects was improving, and the average selling price fell less than 10 percent during the third quarter.
The company's forecast narrowed in part because some of its large-scale projects have moved into the early part of 2010, Werner said in an interview.
"The good news there is that we're still sold out and we go in with a very strong pipeline into 2010," Werner said, adding that the company is "better positioned" for the first quarter of 2010 than it was for the first quarter in 2009.
Werner also told reporters during a conference call he saw residential demand strengthening in all markets, but still expected average selling prices of panels to weaken in the fourth quarter.
SunPower shares tumbled 13 percent to $29.05 following the results in extended trade after closing at $33.30 on the Nasdaq. ID:nN19401993
Demand for systems that turn sunlight into electricity has taken a hit because of the global financial crisis and an oversupply of cells and modules caused by a cutback in Spanish subsidies.
Investors are also now fretting over how much and when Germany's government will cut aid to its solar industry, the world's top market.
Werner said SunPower has always prepared for a decline in solar aid in Germany but noted that Germany is a "great market" even with a change in the country's subsidy.
MEMC Electronic Materials Inc, which produces silicon wafers that are a key component in solar cells, swung to a larger-than-expected quarterly loss but said it saw sequential increase in demand.
MEMC said it expected nearly flat revenues during the fourth quarter as compared to the third -- an outlook executives at the company said was conservative given the uncertainty over pricing.
The company's shares fell nearly 2 percent in after-market trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
MEMC also announced it plans to acquire privately held SunEdison, which designs, installs and finances solar systems for commercial customers. ID:nN2251354
Smaller solar power systems maker Akeena Solar Inc posted a narrower-than-expected third-quarter loss as it took advantage of lower panel prices and cheaper installation costs.
But shares of the company closed down nearly 2 percent after it said that installation results in the fourth quarter would likely be similar to those in the third quarter.
Akeena said net sales for the quarter fell 27 percent to $7.7 million, reflecting decline in commercial revenue due to the tight credit market and overall economic conditions. ID:nBNG480161
(Reporting by Poornima Gupta, Laura Isensee in Los Angeles, Matt Daily in New York and Arundhati Ramanathan in Bangalore; Editing by Bernard Orr, Phil Berlowitz)

Two nuclear power stations and five wind farms to be considered by controversial new planning body

Campaigners fear two new nuclear power stations and five wind farms will go ahead after applications were submitted to a powerful new Government body set up to push through controversial projects.

By Louise Gray, Environment CorrespondentPublished: 7:30AM BST 22 Oct 2009
The Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) was formed to speed up the planning process amid fears major developments were getting bogged down in local protests.
Today (Thurs) the IPC announced its first projects including applications from French firm EDF for two new nuclear power stations at Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C as well as five wind farms and a major biomass plant.

However the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fear the projects will be railroaded through by the new body without considering local fears.
The IPC was set up earlier this month to look at planning applications for developments "of national importance" such as power stations and roads. Although councils will give evidence and there will be local consultation, the IPC will make the ultimate decision based on plans set out by the Government in National Policy Statements.
Fiona Howie, Head of Planning and Regions at the CPRE, said the Government has already made clear it favours nuclear.
"A huge amount will depend on the [forthcoming] National Policy Statement. If they say yes to nuclear then it will be very very difficult for the IPC to refuse them," she said.
She said the CPRE remain concerned that the IPC will override the opinion of the local community.
"Whilst we recognise national good versus local concerns, our worry is will anyone be able to influence anything once the NPS is set out?" she asked.
But Sir Michael Pitt, Chair of the IPC, emphasised that the public will be able to take part in the process.
"The projects we are highlighting today raise important issues for the nation and for local communities and we want the public to have confidence that their views will be heard. In every case there will be an opportunity for an open floor hearing as part of the IPC examination process."

Multinationals plan to invest in British wind energy

Robin Pagnamenta: Energy Editor

Ikea, the Swedish home goods retailer, and Google, the American internet giant, are among a growing list of multinationals that are considering investing in Britain’s offshore wind industry, according to one of Europe’s most senior energy dealmakers.
John Lynch, head of power and utilities at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told a CBI energy conference yesterday that the sector was attracting strong interest from a variety of companies keen to invest in renewable power to help meet commitments to cut their carbon emissions.
He also named Microsoft and Wal-Mart as businesses that had been examining opportunities. “We are seeing a lot of interest in UK offshore wind,” Mr Lynch said. “This is a technology that the UK is leading in and these companies are looking at ways to get involved because it meets their own corporate social responsibility objectives ... It’s anecdotal at the moment but there is certainly a lot of interest.”
Ikea has a long-term plan to supply all of its stores, warehouses and offices worldwide with 100 per cent renewable energy generated from wind, solar, biofuel and geothermal power.
The company is exploring ways to achieve this goal, with one option being the acquisition of minority stakes in wind parks or in solar farms operated by utility companies.
A spokeswoman for Google declined to comment on specific investment opportunities in which the company might be interested, but she pointed out that it has a long-standing commitment to renewable energy.
Computer data centres require large amounts of electricity for power and cooling, and consume about 2 per cent of all US energy generation.
Just one facility can draw approximately 40 megawatts of electricity — enough to supply a town of 40,000 people.
The Google spokeswoman said the company was “working to develop electricity from renewable energy sources that is cheaper than electricity produced from coal, with a goal of producing one gigawatt of renewable energy capacity — enough to power a city the size of San Francisco — in years, not decades”.
As part of this effort, she said that Google was making a series of strategic investments and grants.
Mr Lynch said the projects that were attracting the greatest interest were the giant “Round Three” offshore wind farm projects that are being offered by the Crown Estate, which owns Britain’s seabed.
To meet its target of cutting carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 compared with 1990, Britain has launched a programme to expand its offshore wind farms, already the world’s biggest at about one gigawatt, to between 33 and 40 gigawatts by 2020.
To achieve this, about £100 billion of investment will be required by 2020, the Crown Estate reported this month.
The figures include up to £70 billion for wind turbines, £10 billion to £20 billion for power transmission systems and a further £10 billion to £20 billion for other items.
The total generating capacity of all Britain’s power stations and wind farms stands at about 75 gigawatts.
The Round 3 offshore wind projects are divided into nine zones with the first turbine expected to be in the water in 2014.
Dermot Grimson, head of external affairs for the Crown Estate, said the group had been briefing a very wide range of groups about the projects.

Windows 7: Why Microsoft's energy-saving claims don't add up

Microsoft's low-light mode doesn't earn it the right to claim its new operating system is eco-friendly

Fred Pearce, Thursday 22 October 2009 10.04 BST
You will have spotted the ballyhoo by now - Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system is out today. And, rather as when Microsoft launched Vista three years ago, the company is trumpeting its energy-saving credentials. Windows 7 offers "more than just lip service" on eco-friendly features.
Microsoft is not making any specific claims about how much power Windows 7 can save, though in a demo for journalists in California recently, a laptop playing a DVD achieved 20% more battery life with Windows 7 than with Vista.
Microsoft's coyness is fair enough. The energy gains depend too much on the interface between hardware and software.
Instead, it claims to offer green-minded consumers more options. When running Windows 7, individual users can more easily decide how bright they want their screens, for instance. And corporate IT departments will be able to run power-efficiency diagnostics (pdf) to optimise the operation of PCs within their networks.
That is all to the good. Choice is important. But you have to wonder how many IT departments will take the trouble to explore the energy-saving possibilities of the new Windows when, according to Francois Ajenstat, director for environmental sustainability at Microsoft, "probably 70% of business users leave PCs on at night."
First things first, you might say. Arguably Microsoft should be giving its users rather fewer choices and rather more shoves in the direction of using their machines more efficiently.
Take the screen. The biggest energy user for most PCs and laptops, it typically consumes 40-50% of the power. As one of Microsoft's engineering blogs puts it: "The easiest way to save power on a desktop PC is to reduce the display idle timeout to something very aggressive, such as two or five minutes". So the best way for Microsoft to use its software to improve power efficiency would be to set an "aggressive" timeout as the default setting.
But no. Instead, the company has introduced a new low-light mode as an alternative way to save energy without plunging the machine into sleep mode. If this, as seems likely, ends up persuading users that they don't need to bother with sleep mode, or the inconvenience of waking the machine up again, then it sounds like a retrogressive step.
A lot of people say that Microsoft operating systems are much less energy-efficient that the Mac OS X preloaded on Apple machines. I don't want to join the long-running war between Microsoft and Apple over whose universe is best, but there is plenty of analysis out there suggesting that, for many tasks, Apple machines running with Apple operating systems use little more than half as much power as either Apples or PCs that are running Vista.
That may not be the full story, but I have yet to see anyone claiming Vista is better than Apple on the energy front.
But actually none of this is the big issue. The big issue is hardware.
Most commentators say the power savings claimed for Windows 7 won't amount to much until the new system is run on new hardware configured to take advantage. We can be fairly sure that big manufacturers like Hewlett-Packard, Acer and Dell will be bringing out new models to encourage the switchover – just in time for Christmas.
Microsoft certainly hopes so. "For the vast majority of people that get Windows 7, most will move to new hardware," according to Parri Munsell, its director for consumer product management.
Critics say this is hardly surprising. Microsoft makes it so hard to install "7" on an existing machine that most people will adopt it by going out to buy new kit. Could this be a good thing? After all, surely the quicker customers switch to Windows 7 the less their energy demands and the lower their carbon footprint.
I think not.
Eric Williams of the United Nations University calculated five years ago that most of the carbon footprint for a typical desktop computer comes not from running it but from making it. Manufacturing made up a staggering 81% of the footprint, a much greater proportion than for other household electric goods like fridges and TVs.
So if introducing Windows 7 involves buying a new computer that is bad news. By my calculation, almost any likely energy saving from running Windows 7 would be wiped out by bringing forward the purchase of your next computer by more than a few weeks.
That's the story Microsoft won't tell you, and Dell, Acer and Hewlett-Packard certainly won't tell you. If you want to cut the carbon emissions from your computing, the best way is to stick with your old machine – even if you stick with the old operating system.

Aggreko's Rupert Soames: Churchill's grandson brings light to Africa

Chief executive of Scottish generator-hire company Aggreko provides power – from Kenya to Glastonbury
Tim Webb, Friday 23 October 2009
For the only time during the interview, Rupert Soames, chief executive of heavy-duty generator rental firm Aggreko, seems genuinely lost for words.
It's a bit like one of those awkward Desert Island Discs moments on Radio 4, when the interviewee becomes uncomfortable if the questions get too personal, that passes only when the next disc is introduced.
Soames has veered off from talking about Aggreko to try to explain his obvious and genuine fascination with Africa, where hundreds of millions of people – and their governments – rely on his company to keep the lights on.
After a long pause, he finds the phrase he's looking for: "It's the potential of the place. The size … People have to struggle with really difficult issues – many of their own making, many of other people's making."
A quick look at his family tree provides an obvious explanation for his passion. His father was Lord Soames, the last governor of what was then Rhodesia and the man responsible for the British-run elections that brought Robert Mugabe to power in 1980. This is how his "romantic attachment" to the continent began, he suggests, but you could say it was already in his blood: 45 years ago, his maternal grandfather, Winston Churchill, was a staunch but ultimately failed defender of Britain's vast African colonies.
Meeting the convivial Soames, who has a Churchillian turn of phrase to match his ancestry, it is impossible to escape the spectre of history or politics. On his office walls are framed loan notes issued after the Great Crash of 1929. Even some of his expressions seem to belong to a different era, and he is fond of quoting Evelyn Waugh's 1938 novel, Scoop, about a foreign correspondent covering a war in Africa.
Like his grandfather, who, appropriately, first came to public attention with his exploits as a reporter covering colonial wars, he does not beat around the bush. In Africa, Soames declares, "solar is about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike".
His argument was that peak demand for electricity in Africa occurs after the sun has gone down, between 9pm and midnight. Solar can only help meet this in conjunction with hydro-electricty, which provides much of Africa's power.
But when the rains fail – as they are doing more and more often – the dams dry up and cannot generate electricity. Because most developing countries have limited back-up power generation, governments have to get the likes of Aggreko to ship in large mobile generators to provide temporary power. When renewables like solar or hydro aren't working, Soames comes calling – often literally.
Kenya is a good example. After the rains failed this summer and its hydro plants ground to a halt, the government paid Aggreko to rent 290MW of generating capacity for a year to help limit the waves of power cuts. If the rains come next year, Aggreko will pack up its kit and leave. If they fail again, the generators will probably stay, he says.
In Africa, where Aggreko does most of its business, the number of blackouts is rising as countries' crumbling energy infrastructure fails to keep pace with economic growth.
Soames quotes a World Bank report that estimates African businesses lose 56 days of production each year owing to power shortages, or more than one in five working days. This is good for Aggreko and its business is booming, with shares hitting an all-time high this week. But its diesel- and gas-powered generators operate at higher costs than hydro power and many larger conventional fossil fuel plants, pushing up the price of electricity for the utilities.
Nevertheless, keeping the lights on is a political imperative. "In developing countries, power is right up the hierarchy. In most developing countries, people take whether the lights are on or not as an indicator of good or bad government. The politicians know this and we would hardly do a contract where the energy minister or prime minister is not involved in some way."
This can make Aggreko's business unpredictable and often the company has to respond swiftly. "They say rush rush, hurry hurry, rush. Often we are dealing with customers who have absolutely horrific political issues to deal with," he says.
Sometimes the state-owned utilities miss their payments, which calls for some shuttle diplomacy. "You don't get a payment for two or three months and we go down and protest and beg and sit outside the minister's office, and say please, pretty please, pay us," he says. "Then a wodge of money will come."
In six years of running the international operation of Aggreko, no one has refused to pay outright or seized Aggreko's equipment, although Soames expects something of the sort to happen sooner or later.
The nature of Aggreko's business often brings it into conflict zones or countries still trying to rebuild their infrastructure after a war. One of Aggreko's generators took a direct hit in Iraq recently. "We have been shelled before, but to actually get one through the front of the generator was a little closer than we would have liked. We often deal in places which are very dangerous."
Aggreko, based in Dumbarton in Scotland, has a fleet of power generators that, combined, could provide almost a tenth of Britain's peak electricity demand. Not all of its equipment is deployed in developing countries: it shipped generators out to the US last year after hurricanes Gustav and Ike wrecked existing plants.
While the international business is growing, the company makes two-thirds of its revenue from renting equipment to supply electricity for organised events, such as the Glastonbury music festival or the Olympic Games in Beijing.
While Soames knows a thing or two about power cuts in Africa, he worries that Britain could suffer from similar problems in a few years unless the government makes investing in new power plants viable for companies. He also believes low-carbon generation such as clean coal are not yet ready to replace the existing clapped-out gas and coal power plants built in the 1960s.
"We have to be realistic: the technologies that people would love to imagine are going to lead to a very high proportion of energy generation coming from renewables are not at a stage where they can be deployed at a large scale globally," he warns. "We have to understand what is the art of the possible."
Does that mean that Soames – in the footsteps of his brother Nicholas, the former Tory minister of state for the armed forces – is itching to get into politics, to knock a few heads together? "One Soames is enough," he growls.

Toshiba eyes rare metals venture with Kazatomprom

Reuters, Friday October 23 2009
* Venture to be set up by the end of the year
* Partnership to include dysprosium, neodynmium, rhenium (Adds details, background)
TOKYO, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Toshiba Corp said on Friday it aims to set up a rare metals joint venture by the year's end with Kazakhstan state-owned firm Kazatomprom, as growing sales of electric and hybrid cars spurs demand for the materials.
Toshiba, which has teamed up with Kazatomprom on uranium mine development, plans to expand their partnership to include rare metals, such as dysprosium, neodymium and rhenium -- byproducts of uranium production.
Neodymium, for instance is a key component used to make high-power magnets in electric motors of hybrid cars, such as Toyota Motor Corp's Prius and Honda's Insight.
Rare earth metals are used in a wide range of products, from cellphones and laptops to generators for wind turbines, and Japanese firms and the government are hurrying to secure reserves as China's appetite for the metals grows.
Toshiba and Kazatomprom, which holds 10 percent of Toshiba's U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse, last year said they would consider possible ways to work together on rare metals such as beryllium and tantalum for use in nuclear power plants. (Reporting by Mayumi Negishi; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

Car scrappage scheme sparks switch to greener vehicles

Manfacturers see rise in demand for smaller, fuel-efficient cars
Adam Vaughan, Thursday 22 October 2009 13.32 BST

The government's car scrappage scheme has had a surprisingly positive environmental effect. Motorists buying new cars through the scheme, that was introduced at this year's budget, are opting for greener and smaller models than the average new car buyer, industry figures reveal.
When the UK scrappage scheme began in May it was roundly criticised by environmental campaigners and commentators for not enforcing fuel efficiency standards for new cars bought through the scheme. But figures released by the car manufacturers' trade association SMMT this week show the scheme has had a surprising green halo, with new cars bought through it emitting 10.9% less (16g/km CO2) than the average new car.
Scrappage buyers were also three times more likely than average to buy the smallest class of car - "minis" such as the Smart Fortwo - and a third more cars bought through the scheme were larger "superminis" such as the Hyundai i10. New cars bought through the scheme had average CO2 emissions of 131.1g/km CO2, 27.4% below the average CO2 (181.9g/km CO2) of the scrapped cars.
By 2015, average emissions across European fleets will have to emit less than 130g/km CO2 under EU law. The UK was recently criticised by transport campaigners for lagging behind other European countries such as Portugal, Italy and Spain on average CO2 levels from new cars.
The SMMT figures cover 80% of the 178,253 cars registered between May and September through the scheme, which has been warmly welcomed by the industry. Paul Everitt, SMMT's chief executive, said, "Since launching, the scrappage incentive scheme has provided a welcome boost to new car registrations. Not only is it helping to reduce average CO2 emissions, but it is putting safer vehicles on our roads."
But environmental campaigners warned the emissions cuts were simply incidental. Tony Bosworth, Friends of the Earth's transport campaigner, said: "We're pleased that people are buying less polluting new cars, but we mustn't be fooled into thinking that this was a deliberate aim of the scrappage scheme. Ministers must do far more to encourage low-carbon development and take tough action to ensure that greener cars are bought and driven. And the motor industry, which has consistently opposed tough measures to tackle climate change, must be forced to get serious about cutting emissions."
The switch to greener cars as a result of the UK scrappage scheme echoes the pattern set by the US "cash-for-clunkers" scheme, which saw SUVs and pick-up trucks account for 83% of the most-traded cars. The US administration claimed new cars bought through the programme were 63% less polluting than the old ones, though campaigners criticised it as an costly method of reducing carbon emissions.
The SMMT data follows preliminary analysis by experts earlier this year that suggested scrappage buyers were switching to smaller and more efficient cars

Decline in Burmese timber smuggling across Chinese border, figures show

Imports into China have dropped by 70% but continue to pose a threat to one of the world's last virgin forests, according to Global Witness阅读中文 Read this in Chinese
Jonathan Watts, Asia environment correspondent, Thursday 22 October 2009 08.42 BST
Improved Chinese border controls have dramatically slowed imports of illegally logged wood from Burma, but smuggling continues to pose a threat to one of the world's last virgin forests, according to a new report by Global Witness.
The environmental group noted the cross-border trade of logs and planks fell by more than 70% between 2005 and 2008. Field investigators also noted that many saw mills have closed, warehouses are empty and the traffic of timber on the roads visibly declined.
"These numbers are so fantastic, I'm surprised," said the group's forest policy expert, Jon Buckrell. "Clearly action taken by authorities in China and Burma to combat illegal logging in Kachin state has had a significant positive impact."
But he cautioned that the problem of illegal logging in Burma and imports in China was far from solved.
Although Burma has much of the world's last virgin forest – including 60% of the globe's teak trees – it has recently suffered one of the fastest rates of deforestation in the world as the cash-strapped military regime in Rangoon and rebel groups on the border felled teak, mandrake and Chinese coffin trees at an unsustainable rate.
Most of the wood is sold to Chinese furniture and flooring firms, which make products for consumers in Europe and the United States.
Despite the slow-down, the trade continues. In the new report, A Disharmonious Trade, Global Witness investigators found that 13 of the 14 firms they visited were able to obtain timber from Myanmar despite the restrictions.
According to the customs figures in the neighbouring Chinese province of Yunnan, 270,000 m3 of logs, and 170,000 m3 of sawn timber were imported in 2008. Global Witness estimates that 90% of this amount was illegally felled.
The group said smugglers use "bribery, false papers, transportation at night and avoiding checkpoints" to get around the restrictions on sending the wood across the border.
China also continues to import large quantities of timber from Russia, Indonesia, Africa and South America, much of it illegally logged, for reprocessing into goods for the domestic and overseas markets.
Conservationists warn that the trade is unlikely to be halted until consumers are better informed about where wood originates and importing nations take tougher actions. They want China and Europe to enact laws similar to the US Lacey Act, which prohibits the trade of illegal logged wood.
"Burma accounts for just a small fraction of China's wood. Stopping trade on this border won't stop the problem of illegal imports," said Buckrell. The problem is worldwide. Global Witness estimate China accounts for about a quarter of the global trade in illegal timber.
The end users also share responsibility. The group says the UK imports more illegal timber than any other EU country because it buys so much from China. Despite the Lacey Act, US companies still advertise Burmese wood flooring on their websites, it said.
China's Foreign Ministry and Myanmar's Forestry Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
• This article was amended on 22 October 2009. It was published while still awaiting clarification from the reporter about information on timber imports to Yunnan. This information has now been added.