Tuesday, 3 November 2009

GOP Senators Warn Boxer on Climate-Bill Strategy

WASHINGTON -- Six ranking Republican U.S. senators Monday warned the head of the environment committee that pushing ahead with a vote on a landmark climate bill this week would "severely damage" the chances of passing the legislation.
Environment and Public Works Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) has said she's prepared to begin consideration of the climate bill Tuesday despite objections by GOP committee members who want a full economic analysis of the proposal.
The six panel members said they would try to block passage of the bill through committee by not attending the scheduled markup. Under committee rules, at least two members of the minority are needed to vote on legislation.
Ms. Boxer then indicated she may try to push the bill through committee without the Republicans: Senate rules allow bills to be approved in committee by a simple majority. The chairwoman urged her GOP colleagues to reconsider their decision and "come back to work."
"This bill has had comprehensive legislative hearings, with 54 expert witnesses in nine panels," Ms. Boxer said in a statement Monday. "No climate bill has ever had this level of review and the Obama Administration stands behind the EPA's analysis," she said.
The ranking members of the six committees responsible for considering different provisions of the bill -- including the environment, finance, foreign relations, agriculture, energy and commerce panels -- said in a letter to Boxer they are "deeply troubled" by the chairwoman's plan to move ahead without the comprehensive analysis.
Although the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a short analysis of the Senate bill, the agency said a comprehensive analysis wouldn't be finished for a few more weeks.
"While such analyses are never perfect, they are an essential aspect of the legislative decision-making process when policy changes of such consequences are in play," the ranking Republican senators wrote.
The bill -- which sets a falling cap on greenhouse gas emissions and allows companies to buy and sell the right to emit -- would affect nearly every sector of the economy.
Moving ahead with a committee vote without the EPA analyses or resolving some of the concerns raised by both GOP and Democratic members, "would severely damage, rather than help, the chances of enacting changes to our nation's climate and energy policies," the ranking Republicans said in the letter.
Environment committee Republicans "are not opposed to a markup, only on holding one before we have a full economic analysis," said Matt Dempsey, a spokesman for the GOP members on the panel, in an email over the weekend.
Few political analysts believe the Senate will this year consider a climate bill on the chamber floor, as a raft of other committees also want their chance to craft the legislation and other major priorities are vying for the Senate's attention. Lawmakers first have to finish the health-care debate, and there are financial-services restructuring and several appropriations bills to consider.
Ms. Boxer and administration officials would like to have the landmark climate legislation passed out of committee as one trophy they would be able to take to a major international climate summit in Copenhagen next month. Such action could provide some assurance to other governments that the U.S. is serious about passing into law new rules to cut greenhouse gases, giving the Obama administration greater leverage in its talks.
Write to Ian Talley at ian.talley@dowjones.com

How everybody benefited from Nintendo’s Wii

There has been a shift in consumer confidence in how electronics manufacturers address social and environmental issues
Giles Gibbons
It is hard to shift the dial on reputation. This is true of the reputation of companies — and often doubly true of that of an industry.
People tend to trust individual companies and brands but remain wary of generalising. Levels of trust in multinationals are always well below those for other companies in that industry.
This is not to say that an industry’s reputation cannot be turned around. In the latest exclusive survey for The Times, conducted by Populus, we have noted a significant shift in consumer confidence in how electronics manufacturers are addressing social and environmental issues. But it requires action — the right kind of action.
Reputational shift

It is striking that 46 per cent of consumers in this month’s survey think that the reputation of the video gaming industry has improved in recent years (see first graph). Here we have an industry that was once cast as the villain. Think back a few years to the horror stories about how video games were making children fat, reclusive and violent.
Things are different now. And, as most consumers agree, this turnaround can be attributed almost entirely to one company: Nintendo. Forty-six per cent of consumers surveyed, who thought that the reputation of the industry had improved, believe this company is responsible, placing it leagues ahead of Sony and Microsoft, its closest rivals, both on 17 per cent.
The Wii effect
The second graph offers two important lessons. The first is that just as one company is often responsible for bringing an entire industry down (certain fast-food chains come to mind), so one company can bring it back up again. The second, more important lesson can be learnt only by looking at exactly what Nintendo did.
According to Michael Rawlinson, director-general of the Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers’ Association: “In the past, video games have had a bad press ... but today games are not only a mainstream pastime, they can even play their part in a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle. Today’s games can bring friends and families together, get people active and even connect gamers from the four corners of the world to play together.”
When Nintendo launched the Wii, it actively addressed many of the big issues the industry faced and in the best way possible — through the product. In a stroke of genius, through Wii Fit, Nintendo even made sports and physical activity fun and appealing to exactly the people who probably need the exercise most.
As Rita Clifton, chairman of Interbrand UK, the consultancy, says: “The brand brought in a whole new set of gamers, who were many of the people who didn’t approve of gaming.”
The Nintendo Wii has become one of the bestselling home games machines of the present generation and has sales of more than 50 million units since its launch. And Wii Fit was the third fastest-selling video game in history.
Good for the industry’s reputation, good for the business, good for the brand. But while the social issues may have been taken care of, the environmental issues are about to start.
Green reputations
As we see in the survey (see third graph), 46 per cent of consumers say that they have started looking for “greener” products in the past year and 58 per cent have been choosing products with less packaging. Almost three quarters — 73 per cent — say they feel that they do not usually have enough environmental information to make an informed choice about the products they buy. Top of the list of what information they want? Electricity consumption, at 96 per cent.
This is a clear example of an unmet need and a looming issue. Power consumption and packaging are moving to the front line. If that reputational dial is going to remain firmly at its present setting, innovation and action, through the product and in the voice of the brand, is key.
? Giles Gibbons is founder and chief executive, Good Business goodbusiness.co.uk

85 months and counting ...

Without essential funds we won't meet climate change targets. The lucrative oil industry has money to spare, so why not tax it?
Andrew Simms
guardian.co.uk, Monday 2 November 2009 14.30 GMT
Many people forget that the basic principles for the Copenhagen negotiations were set long ago at the Earth Summit in 1992. Rich countries were supposed to go first, fastest and furthest, and pay to help others follow in the footsteps. They failed in every single aspect. Consequently, all they can do now is beg, grovel and implore the major low income countries – the likes of Brazil, India and China – to participate willingly, and in good faith.
Of course, it's not that simple. The "Why should we, when you didn't and still aren't?" position may feel smugly strong to negotiators from the global south. But, it needs to be used with extreme caution. Played with too much zeal, while living on the frontline of climate change, they might find that the house of economic development which they hope to move into has burned down long before they get there.
Without a genuine, global commitment to prevent an accumulation of greenhouse gases that is likely to push us over a 2C temperature rise, we could be giving a whole new meaning to the idea of a "scorched earth" policy.
It's all too easy to imagine a carbon stand-off that has tragic, violent consequences. Western consumers are repeatedly told by their politicians that little matters if China doesn't play ball. Meanwhile, China views the nihilistic inaction of western societies with a shrug, and keeps building coal-fired power stations. Small behaviour changes happen in the United States, a bit more renewable energy comes on tap, but the bigger policy stays in place: the real fireworks of using the world's largest military to control declining oil supplies.
The latter gets sustained by its own weirdly self-supporting logic. Since becoming oil-dependent in the early 20th century, the dominant superpower's military might is used to ensure the fuel supplies that, in turn, keep its own military functioning and mobile. Up to the first world war, it was the British and their navy. Afterwards, it was the US with its air, land and naval forces.
It's possibly the greatest energy inefficiency we have, not to mention the way that this military "oil protection racket" also removes the incentive for energy alternatives to develop.
In a single year (2007) the US military spent over $12bn on fuel, using the equivalent of 363,000 barrels of oil per day. It is thought to be the biggest institutional buyer of oil in the world. To put those numbers into perspective, it means that just one nation's military fuel use was almost double that another entire nation, Ireland.
With so much locked into the continuing use and extraction of oil and coal, what will it take for everyone to raise their sights?
The European Union's murky statement that developing countries would need €100bn per year by 2020 to tackle climate change, but without being very clear how much would come from where, was less than inspiring. Those who remember the 1992 Earth Summit might get a sense of déjà vu, as back then the summit concluded that $125bn new money from rich to poor countries would be needed annually to implement its agreements, virtually none of which was forthcoming. And let's not pretend that, even during the global recession, the money is not out there.
The oil company BP may have just been hit with a record $87m fine for safety failings at its US, Texas City refinery, but it still managed a massive $5bn profit in just the third quarter of 2009.
If radical steps are not taken when the climatic conditions on which civilisation depends are under threat, when will they be? Why not, quite seriously, impose a near-100% tax on the profits of the oil majors for the next five years? All the proceeds could then be invested into both beginning the great low-carbon transition at home, and delivering the financial resources without which a meaningful Copenhagen deal will not be agreed. At a stroke, it would generate the vast majority of the funds that most say is essential. We'd also be able to save billions in that other area quite rightly referred to as "unproductive expenditure", the military.
85 months and counting …

Climate negotiators grow impatient at lack of leadership from America

UN and EU pile pressure on US to set ambitious carbon cuts and timetables to improve chances of deal at Copenhagen
John Vidal in Barcelona
guardian.co.uk, Monday 2 November 2009 16.16 GMT
With just five days' formal negotiations left before the start of crucial UN climate talks in Copenhagen next month, key figures in the negotiations are showing clear signs of impatience at the US position.
At international climate talks in Barcelona, the United Nations and European Union, backed by international environment and development groups, today piled pressure on the US to set more ambitious targets and timetables to cut greenhouse emissions in order to reach an agreement.
"We expect American leadership. President Obama has created great expectations around the world. Now we urge [the US] to contribute in the way that we have," said Andreas Carlgren, Swedish environment minister talking on behalf of the EU presidency.
In a clear reference to the US, he added: "We are prepared to cut a deal. Other countries should demonstrate leadership and step up their current pledges."
Countries accept that the Obama administration's hands have been tied by delays in Congress but they urged the president to show more personal leadership and to instruct his negotiators to be less intransigent.
"I remind the US that it is not the only country in the world that has to have discussions with its domestic parliament," said Connie Hedegaard, the Danish environment minister who will host the talks in Copenhagen.
"The expectation out there worldwide among populations and the young [is for] the US to deliver on one of the key challenges of our century. The Americans will have to come up [with an offer] one way or another," she said.
Yvo de Boer, head of the UN framework convention on climate change (UNFCCC) echoed the call for more ambition from the US. "We need to see clear targets from the US at Copenhagen," he said.
But US chief negotiator Jonathan Pershing responded that the US wanted a deal. "Notions that the US is not making an effort is not correct. To apportion blame is not the constructive thing to do. We do not want to be outside [an agreement]. We have the best chance to [make an agreement] if we can implement something domestically. We and Congress recognise the need to move forward," he said.
Pershing accepted that China had moved significantly to reduce its emissions, but said that it needed to go further. "It is very clear that China has taken enormous steps to reduce greenhouse gases. We look forward to an aggressive [next] step from China," he said.
However, groups like Greenpeace accused the US of doing too little. In a letter sent to Obama today they said: "Our critical assessment is that the [US] legislation pending in Congress in the crucial near term will be a perpetuation of business as usual and it will not decrease emissions in the US."
"The continuation of business as usual means doing nothing to reduce emissions. The US position is to reduce US emissions by 17% below 2005 levels. This is far short of what science demands and what Europe has committed to achieve. The 17% reduction shrinks to an actual 4% if measured against 1990 levels." This is the accepted benchmark year used by the Kyoto protocol.
"Congress and parliaments [around the world] have set themselves up to pass new laws to reduce emissions. It is the collective effort that should be reflected," said Pershing.

Clive James isn't a climate change sceptic, he's a sucker - but this may be the reason

My fiercest opponents on global warming tend to be in their 60s and 70s. This offers a fascinating, if chilling, insight into human psychology

George Monbiot
guardian.co.uk, Monday 2 November 2009 21.30 GMT
There is no point in denying it: we're losing. Climate change denial is spreading like a contagious disease. It exists in a sphere that cannot be reached by evidence or reasoned argument; any attempt to draw attention to scientific findings is greeted with furious invective. This sphere is expanding with astonishing speed.
A survey last month by the Pew Research Centre suggests that the proportion of Americans who believe there is solid evidence that the world has been warming over the last few decades has fallen from 71% to 57% in just 18 months. Another survey, conducted in January by Rasmussen Reports, suggests that, due to a sharp rise since 2006, US voters who believe global warming has natural causes (44%) outnumber those who believe it is the result of human action (41%).
A study by the website Desmogblog shows that the number of internet pages proposing that man-made global warming is a hoax or a lie more than doubled last year. The Science Museum's Prove it! exhibition asks online readers to endorse or reject a statement that they've seen the evidence and want governments to take action. As of yesterday afternoon, 1,006 people had endorsed it and 6,110 had rejected it. On Amazon.co.uk, books championing climate change denial are currently ranked at 1, 2, 4, 5, 7 and 8 in the global warming category. Never mind that they've been torn to shreds by scientists and reviewers, they are beating the scientific books by miles. What is going on?
It certainly doesn't reflect the state of the science, which has hardened dramatically over the past two years. If you don't believe me, open any recent edition of Science or Nature or any peer-reviewed journal specialising in atmospheric or environmental science. Go on, try it. The debate about global warming that's raging on the internet and in the rightwing press does not reflect any such debate in the scientific journals.
An American scientist I know suggests that these books and websites cater to a new literary market: people with room-temperature IQs. He didn't say whether he meant fahrenheit or centigrade. But this can't be the whole story. Plenty of intelligent people have also declared themselves sceptics.
One such is the critic Clive James. You could accuse him of purveying trite received wisdom, but not of being dumb. On Radio 4 a few days ago he delivered an essay about the importance of scepticism, during which he maintained that "the number of scientists who voice scepticism [about climate change] has lately been increasing". He presented no evidence to support this statement and, as far as I can tell, none exists. But he used this contention to argue that "either side might well be right, but I think that if you have a division on that scale, you can't call it a consensus. Nobody can meaningfully say that the science is in."
Had he bothered to take a look at the quality of the evidence on either side of this media debate, and the nature of the opposing armies – climate scientists on one side, rightwing bloggers on the other – he too might have realised that the science is in. In, at any rate, to the extent that science can ever be, which is to say that the evidence for man-made global warming is as strong as the evidence for Darwinian evolution, or for the link between smoking and lung cancer. I am constantly struck by the way in which people like James, who proclaim themselves sceptics, will believe any old claptrap that suits their views. Their position was perfectly summarised by a supporter of Ian Plimer (author of a marvellous concatenation of gibberish called Heaven and Earth), commenting on a recent article in the Spectator: "Whether Plimer is a charlatan or not, he speaks for many of us." These people aren't sceptics; they're suckers.
Such beliefs seem to be strongly influenced by age. The Pew report found that people over 65 are much more likely than the rest of the population to deny that there is solid evidence that the earth is warming, that it's caused by humans, or that it's a serious problem. This chimes with my own experience. Almost all my fiercest arguments over climate change, both in print and in person, have been with people in their 60s or 70s. Why might this be?
There are some obvious answers: they won't be around to see the results; they were brought up in a period of technological optimism; they feel entitled, having worked all their lives, to fly or cruise to wherever they wish. But there might also be a less intuitive reason, which shines a light into a fascinating corner of human psychology.
In 1973 the cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker proposed that the fear of death drives us to protect ourselves with "vital lies" or "the armour of character". We defend ourselves from the ultimate terror by engaging in immortality projects, which boost our self-esteem and grant us meaning that extends beyond death. More than 300 studies conducted in 15 countries appear to confirm Becker's thesis. When people are confronted with images or words or questions that remind them of death they respond by shoring up their worldview, rejecting people and ideas that threaten it, and increasing their striving for self-esteem.
One of the most arresting findings is that immortality projects can bring death closer. In seeking to defend the symbolic, heroic self that we create to suppress thoughts of death, we might expose the physical self to greater danger. For example, researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel found that people who reported that driving boosted their self-esteem drove faster and took greater risks after they had been exposed to reminders of death.
A recent paper by the biologist Janis L Dickinson, published in the journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult to repress thoughts of death, and that people might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival. There is already experimental evidence that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption. Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism.
If Dickinson is correct, is it fanciful to suppose that those who are closer to the end of their lives might react more strongly against reminders of death? I haven't been able to find any experiments testing this proposition, but it is surely worth investigating. And could it be that the rapid growth of climate change denial over the last two years is actually a response to the hardening of scientific evidence? If so, how the hell do we confront it?

Impact of religions will have 'deeper roots' than Copenhagen

Archbishop speaks of the lasting impact of a religious movement to tackle climate change ahead of major summit of religious leaders.
From the Ecologist, part of the Guardian Environment The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has spoken out about the crucial role of the world's religions in tackling climate change ahead of a major summit of faith leaders.
Speaking at Lambeth Palace last week, the Archbishop said religions held the 'moral vision' and that ultimately their impact would have 'deeper roots' than anything achievable at the Copenhagen summit.
His comments come as leaders from nine of the world's major faiths - Baha'ism, Christianity, Daoism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Dhintoism and Sikhism - gather at a major summit in Windsor this week to announce commitments to tackling climate change.
Faith commitmentsAmong the practical measures being announced is a commitment by The Northern Diocese of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania to plant 8.5 million trees, and by Sikhs to source sustainable fuel for India's Sikh gurdwaras, or temples, which cater for 30 million people every day.
Leaders will also announce a new Islamic eco label for goods and services, eco-tourism packages for pilgrimages (still the world's biggest tourism events) and the turning of Shabbat into an environmental celebration of avoiding consumption.
Biggest civil movementThe event, being organised by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), has been described as 'the biggest civil society movement on climate change in history,' by the UN.
Faith communities own between 7-8 per cent of the habitable land surface of the planet, run (or are involved in) half the world's schools and control more than 7 per cent of international financial investments.
UN Assistant Secretary-General Ola Kjorven said with more than 85 per cent of the world's population adhering to a religion the commitments made at the Windsor summit had the potential to be, 'the biggest mobilisation of people and communities that we have ever seen on this issue.'
• Mark Anslow is the Ecologist's News Editor. This article appeared in the June issue of the Ecologist, part of the Guardian Environment Network

Britons least concerned about climate change

Britain is less concerned about climate change than any other country in the world, according to a new survey.

Published: 9:00AM GMT 02 Nov 2009
The annual Climate Confidence Monitor found the number of people worrying about global warming worldwide has fallen by eight per cent to just over a third in the last year as the economic downturn kicked in.
Just fifteen per cent of people in Britain worry about climate change and how the world responds to the problem, the lowest figure for any of the 12 countries surveyed. The figure is down from 26 per cent last year. In the US 18 per cent of people said global warming was one of their biggest concerns followed by 22 per cent in Australia.

In general people in developing countries are more concerned about climate change, with more than half of people in Mexico citing the issue as a major problem and 42 per cent in Brazil and India.
Britain was also the most pessimistic about the world's ability to tackle climate change, with almost half believing nothing can be done compared to 38 per cent worldwide.
However, people still believe that action should be taken. On average, almost half of people say they are taking some action to reduce their carbon footprint such as switching off lights, walking rather than driving or recycling. This is a rise of seven per cent since 2007.
In the run up the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December, nearly two thirds of people in the world think a global deal to cut emissions is important. The US, the world's second largest emitter, was the only country where less than half the population thought world needed to take action compared to 86 per cent in Brazil and 75 per cent in China - the world's biggest emitter.
The report, that has been running for three years, questions 1,000 people in each country.
HSBC, that commissioned the study, said despite the recession people remain concerned about climate change and are more determined than ever to do something to tackle the problem.
Lord Stern, the former World Bank economist who first warned the British Government about climate change, said the meeting in Copenhagen was a chance for people from all countries to make a difference.
"With just over a month to go before Copenhagen, this is a clear call from the global population for a strong and effective deal," he said. "Rich and developing countries must act together to create an agreement that will lay the foundations for a future era of dynamic low-carbon growth.”

Barcelona diary: Fighting talk, Russian roulette and Gaudí's 'green' makeover

It's the final countdown to Copenhagen, but it only takes seven days to agree a legally binding deal, or so it seems
John Vidal
guardian.co.uk, Monday 2 November 2009 13.17 GMT
Connie takes on America
Connie Hedegaard, Danish environment minister who will be the official host of the Copenhagen talks, took the diplomatic gloves off within minutes of the Barcelona talks opening by challenging the US to set an emissions target:
I feel it [is] very hard to imagine how the US president can receive the Nobel peace prize on December 10 in Oslo only a few hundreds kilometres [from Copenhagen] if he has sent an American delegation to Copenhagen with no offer. I remind the US that it is not the only country in the world that has to have discussions with its domestic parliament. The expectation out there worldwide among populations and the young [is for] the US to deliver on one of the key challenges of our century. The Americans will have to come up [with an offer] one way or another.
Russia's trump card
Word on the grapevine here is that Russia, the dark horse among the Annex 1 [rich] countries, will this week formally side with the US, Europe, Australia and Canada and demand that the Kyoto protocol is ditched in favour of a brand new agreement. That would be rich, if only because it was Russia that actually saved Kyoto back in 2002 when after three years years of hesitation, it ratified it and thereby brought it into force. A case of what Russia gives, Russia may take away.
A right clock-up
The main hall here in Barcelona is vast and anonymous. But in a nice theatrical touch the organisers have installed a countdown to Copenhagen clock right in front of the podium (rather like our online one). As Yvo de Boer stood up to welcome the 3,000 delagates who could squeze into the room, it was reading 34 days, 23 hours, 31 minutes and 30 seconds. "The clock has almost ticked down to zero. Time will fly. I sense a huge desire to succeed," he said. The trouble is, the way it has been positioned, most of the delegations could not see it.
Law and politicsHow long can it really take to put together a legally binding — as opposed to a political — deal? Rich countries say it's not possible in the time left but 30 lawyers and other people from WWF, Greenpeace, the David Suzuki foundation in Canada and elsewhere, sat down to see if it was possible in the remaining time. They managed it it in under seven days. They will present their plan to country delegations tomorrow.
What exactly is the UK doing?The head of the G77, Sudanese ambassador Lumumba Stanislaus-Kaw Di-Aping, is spotted entering the halls lugging a great bag of papers. "Please tell me what is Great Britain doing? Where is its moral authority. We need it now," he says. Over to the UK delegation, squeezed between the UAE and the Tanzania for the opening ceremony. Jan Thompson, the UK chief negotiator, squashes rumours that climate change secretary Ed Miliband will be dropping in to Barcelona at the end of the week to galvanise the talks. "His press people are coming, but I don't believe he is," she says.
Greenpeace and Gaudí
NGOs have been begun to sound exactly like Denmark's Hedegaard. Here is a Greenpeace spokesman, as its climbers scaled one of Gaudí's iconic Sagrada Familia towers to drop a banner: "A good deal for the climate is still possible. All that is missing is political will from the US, which under President Obama has fallen far behind the rest of the world and is threatening to undermine a planet-saving agreement in Copenhagen."

Kilimanjaro's snows melt away in dramatic evidence of climate change

Hannah Devlin

The snows of Mount Kilimanjaro will be gone within two decades, according to scientists who say that the rapid melting of its glacier cap over the past century provides dramatic physical evidence of global climate change.
If the forecast — based on 95 years of data tracking the retreat of the Kilimanjaro ice — proves correct it will be the first time in about 12,000 years that the slopes of Africa’s highest mountain have been ice-free.
Since 1912, 85 per cent of the glacier has disappeared and the melting does not appear to be slowing down. Twenty-six per cent of the ice has disappeared since 2000.
The study, published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concludes that the primary cause of the ice loss is the increase in global temperatures. Although changes in cloudiness and snowfall may also play a role, these factors appear to be less important. Even intense droughts, including one lasting about 300 years, did not cause the present degree of melting.

The study, based on terrestrial and satellite photographs, shows the shrinking contours of ice at points between 1912 and 2007. The 12 sq km (4.6 sq miles) of ice coverage in 1912 contracted to 1.9 sq km by 2007, going from two large ice fields to a collection of several smaller, isolated patches.
In a second part of the study, scientists from the Ohio State University drilled down to the rock beneath the ice and extracted cylindrical crosssections, known as ice cores, at six different sites on the glacier. The cores, which were up to 49m (160ft) long, provided a record of the freezing, melting and precipitation patterns of the past 11,700 years.
Elongated bubbles in the surface layer of one of the cores indicated that extensive melting and refreezing had taken place in the past 40 years. In the past even extreme climate events had not led to substantial melting. A severe drought 4,200 years ago lasting three centuries left a 1in dust layer but no evidence of significant melting.
Radioactive dating techniques also showed that the ice was quickly thinning, as well as contracting in area. The Southern Ice Field had thinned by 5.1m between 2000 and 2007, and the smaller Furtwängler Glacier had thinned by 4.8m — 50 per cent of its total depth.
“There will be a year when Furtwängler is present, and, by the next year, it will have disappeared,” Lonnie Thompson, a paleoclimatologist at Ohio State University who led the study, said.
The melting of Kilimanjaro is part of a trend of glacial retreat throughout Africa, India and South America. Melting is occurring on Mount Kenya, the Rwenzori Mountains in central Africa, as well as on tropical glaciers high in the Andes andHimalayas.
“The fact that so many glaciers throughout the tropics and subtropics are showing similar responses suggests an underlying common cause,” Professor Thompson said.
He attributed the changes to increases in the Earth’s surface temperatures, which are exaggerated at high altitudes. Scientists predict that, even if no further significant warming occurs, all but the very highest of summits will eventually melt.
The melting of glaciers can be devastating for species who rely on snowy environments for survival. It can also have consequences for agriculture. Much of the river flow in glacial regions comes from melt water and glacial retreat is predicted to increase water scarcity.
The Met Office predicted this month that glacial retreats could lead to a 20 per cent decline in global agricultural productivity.

Cutting Britain's livestock industry won't save the planet

A simplistic approach won't help us to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases

Alistair Mackintosh
The Guardian, Tuesday 3 November 2009
The assertion attributed to Lord Stern – that eating meat could become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving because of its "impact on global warming" – is dangerously simplistic and underestimates the results already being achieved by the farming industry in reducing its environmental footprint (Vegetarian diet is better for the planet, says Lord Stern, 27 October).
Lord Stern comments: "Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases." He adds that "it puts enormous pressure on the world's resources" and that "a vegetarian diet is better".
I am a livestock farmer, and while I understand that Lord Stern is a respected economist and climate change commentator, I believe his statements do not take account of the complex interactions within the food and farming system. However, I totally agree with his later clarification that "the debate about climate change should not be dumbed down to a single slogan, such as 'Give up meat to save the planet'".
The UK farming sector only accounts for around 1% of the country's total CO2 emissions, and methane emissions from UK agricultural production have fallen by 17% since 1990. I would agree that more needs to be done. As farmers take their responsibilities seriously, actions to reduce emissions from livestock production are already under way. Examples include the Environmental Plan for Dairy Farming and the milk and meat roadmaps, working in partnership with government and others in the supply chain. Practical measures to lower emissions from livestock include changing diets, improving productivity and using anaerobic digestion to produce biogas – a source of green, renewable energy.
However, we must face facts. Much of our agricultural land is unsuitable for arable and vegetable crop production. Moreover much of our livestock production is based on grassland which, let us not forget, stores more carbon than any other land use in England. If the consumption of British red meat falls dramatically there will be a real risk of these most valuable environmental assets being abandoned. Sheep and cattle farming also play a vital role in both the rural and national economy.
Contracting the UK's livestock industry would simply "export" our emissions to other countries. In light of the recent report from the government's chief scientist, John Beddington, about the dire need to increase food production to feed a growing global population, this seems completely counterintuitive.
Perhaps, farming in the Lake District as I do, I am blessed with a biased view of our green and pleasant land. Almost 60% of farming's uplands, which are dominated by livestock, is designated as national park or as an area of natural beauty. Without grazing livestock some of our most beautiful and treasured landscapes would be lost.
Solutions to the environmental and social challenges we all face can only be found by investing in agricultural research and development to satisfy the growing global demand for food – a demand which we have a moral duty to fulfil – while at the same time reducing its environmental impact.

Global warming could create 150 million 'climate refugees' by 2050

Environmental Justice Foundation report says 10% of the global population is at risk of forced displacement due to climate change
John Vidal in Barcelona
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 3 November 2009 00.05 GMT
Global warming will force up to 150 million "climate refugees" to move to other countries in the next 40 years, a new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) warns.
In 2008 alone, more than 20 million people were displaced by climate-related natural disasters, including 800,000 people by cyclone Nargis in Asia, and almost 80,000 by heavy floods and rains in Brazil, the NGO said.
President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, who presented testimony to the EJF, said people in his country did not want to "trade a paradise for a climate refugee camp". He warned rich countries taking part in UN climate talks this week in Barcelona "not to be stupid" in negotiating a climate treaty in Copenhagen this December.
Nasheed urged governments to find ways to keep temperature rises caused by warming under 2C. "We won't be around for anything after 2C," he said. "We are just 1.5m over sea level and anything over that, any rise in sea level – anything even near that – would wipe off the Maldives. People are having to move their homes because of erosion. We've already this year had problems with two islands and we are having to move them to other islands. We have a right to live."
Last month, the president held a cabinet meeting underwater to draw attention to the plight of his country.
The EJF claimed 500 million to 600 million people – nearly 10% of the world's population – are at risk from displacement by climate change. Around 26 million have already had to move, a figure that the EJF predicts could grow to 150 million by 2050. "The majority of these people are likely to be internally displaced, migrating only within a short radius from their homes. Relatively few will migrate internationally to permanently resettle in other countries," said the report's authors.
In the longer term, the report said, changes to weather patterns will lead to various problems, including desertification and sea-level rises that threaten to inundate low-lying areas and small island developing states. An expert at the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations in Paris recently said global warming could create "ghost states" with citizens living in "virtual states" due to land lost to rising seas.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts sea-level rise in the range of 18-59cm during the 21st century. Nearly one-third of coastal countries have more than 10% of their national land within 5 metres of sea level. Countries liable to lose all or a significant part of their land in the next 50 years, said the EJF report, include Tuvalu, Fiji, the Solomon islands, the Marshall islands, the Maldives and some of the Lesser Antilles.
Many other countries, including Bangladesh, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Chad and Rwanda, could see large movements of people. Bangladesh has had 70 climate-related natural disasters in the past 10 years.
"Climate change impacts on homes and infrastructure, food and water and human health. It will bring about a forced migration on an unprecedented scale," said the EJF director, Steve Trent. "We must take immediate steps to reduce our impact on global climate, and we must also recognise the need to protect those already suffering along with those most at risk."
He called for a new international agreement to address the scale and human cost of climate change. "The formal legal definition of refugees needs to be extended to include those affected by climate change and also internally displaced persons," he said.

Population control is not what makes climate change a feminist issue

Women contribute less to global warming yet will be hit harder by its effects. Reproductive justice is a separate issue

Jess McCabe
guardian.co.uk, Monday 2 November 2009 11.44 GMT
Last week Mary Fitzgerald argued that climate change is a feminist issue on the basis that population control is a way to prevent the situation spiralling out of control. And, she posited, this could be achieved by giving more women more autonomy over their own bodies, through improved access to contraception and abortion.
I'm not going to get into the arguments around whether population control is a good solution to climate change. Others have already done so; George Monbiot's piece barely more than a month ago, for this newspaper, is a great place to start.
Ensuring all women have full reproductive freedom and reproductive justice is a necessary goal in its own right moving towards a more equal and just world. I get that it might be tempting to hitch this issue to climate change, which has so much political capital.
But, as Betsy Hartmann said recently in On the Issues magazine, "A world of difference exists between services that treat women as population targets and those based on a feminist model of respectful, holistic, high-quality care."
Although Fitzgerald does say that rich countries as well as poor countries need to look at population control, in reality this is not on the political agenda, as countries such as Germany are already incentivising women to have more children. The resource consumption of a German resident is considerably higher than the resource consumption of a child born in countries likely to be targeted – any population control efforts are realistically likely to target mostly poor women and mostly women of colour.
But Fitzgerald is completely right that climate change is a feminist issue. Everyone stands to suffer if climate change is allowed to spiral out of control, of course, but a gender analysis of both the impacts and causes of climate change shows that globally women contribute less to the problem and yet are likely to be hit especially hard.
Poor people are likely to bear the brunt as the climate changes and 70% of the world's poor are women. According to one estimate, 85% of the victims of climate disasters are women. Another study found 75% of environmental refugees are women. (Statistics from the Women's Manifesto on Climate Change).
Last month, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, recognised this with a message to a women's leadership conference, in which he acknowledged that women are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – and called for women to be given a greater say in tackling the problem. Of course, as this demonstrates, men are capable of recognising and acting on the gendered impacts of climate change, but the fact that out of 146 delegates at recent climate talks, only seven were women nevertheless speaks to a significant shortfall in political representation of women in this process.
Gender CC, a network of activists and academics working on this issue has a compendium of research on this area, with case studies and materials, all of which paint a clear picture that ignoring gender in tackling climate change risks both failing to get the job done and perpetuating – or even worsening – gender inequality.
And this is not just relevant in the developing world either; a study by the Swedish government found "significant differences" in women's and men's energy consumption in four European countries, both in terms of total energy consumed and what that energy is spent on. The picture varied by country, however – for example carbon dioxide emissions from Swedish single households were 10,700 kg/year for men and 8,500 kg/year for women.
So, yes, climate change is a feminist issue; women are on the front lines of climate change impact and need to be part of creating solutions. And women all over the world are in dire need of access to full and real reproductive justice. But linking the two by advocating population control as a solution to climate change isn't the way to achieve either of these aims.

Preach for a greener and fairer land

The Church of England should be more radical when campaigning on the environment, says George Pitcher.

By George PitcherPublished: 7:11AM GMT 02 Nov 2009
I hear that the Grand Mufti of Egypt will today announce in the unlikely setting of Windsor Castle that Mecca is going to become a model green city. Leave aside the prospect of three million or so pilgrims to the Haj this month being told not to fly to Mecca next time, to slaughter ritually only locally produced animals and kindly to use the bike rack before kissing the Black Stone. The real worry for the Church of England must be that this announcement could steal the show for Green Islam.
It's the Christians who are the biggest hand-wringers about the environment and they're certainly out in force at Windsor, where they're cosying up to the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon. It's all under the auspice of something called the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), founded by the Duke of Edinburgh. It's a sort of religious eco-fest ahead of the politicians' next stab at saving the planet in Copenhagen next month.

The Church of England, as ever, is pitching up with a seven-year "Climate Change Action Plan". This involves lots of worthy activities like "eco-twinning" with church communities in the developing world, building 4,700 "sustainable schools" by 2016 and cutting the Church's carbon footprint by 42 per cent by 2020, which is actually a decade away but I suppose a seven-year plan sounded more scriptural.
I have to say I'm increasingly annoyed by the Church of England's environmental campaigning. It's not so much the twee tokenism of little booklets with titles like How many Christians does it take to change a light bulb? and their injunctions to walk everywhere, though that's irritating enough. It's the docile acceptance by our bishops that man-made global-warming is threatening God's creation and bringing doomsday forward by a few millennia. I have no idea whether global warming is real or not, but I have yet to see any analysis of the competing sciences from the Church of England. It's just an article of faith that we're poisoning the planet with CO2.
Then it dawned on me. Reading the C of E's submission to ARC, I had something of an epiphany. It was suddenly seeing all the references, as if for the first time, to "global justice" and "solidarity with the poor and most vulnerable" and "sustainable ways of living". This isn't really about saving the planet at all. Or, rather, that is a secondary objective to attacking the way we've lived in recent decades, the excess and the global free markets and idolatry of the capitalist way. These are the powers and principalities of our new century and the Church is surely hinting that these too must pass away.
There are plenty who will say that I'm rather late to this conclusion. They bark that the Church of England is now in the grip of the full Leftie gamut from woolly liberals to hardcore neo-Marxists. I don't buy that. Many bishops are actually thoroughly orthodox and highly conservative. Some are even friends of the Prince of Wales, who must have bent his father's ear about today's gig at Windsor. They're no more communist wreckers of civilisation than the Prince is.
What they are is in the fine tradition of the social gospel, interpreters of their Christian faith in the context of the world in which we're really living. Like Archbishop William Temple, or further back, the Victorian philanthropist Archbishop Charles Gore (and you don't get much more patrician than him), they should stand up for the poor first and worry about the planet second. Given the revolting spectacle of bankers throwing themselves back into their state-subsidised troughs and our elected representatives wailing about theirs being taken away, an alternative proffered by our religious leaders should gain some public traction. A model for sustainable living does not, presumably, include today's bankers and MPs and I wish our bishops would say so.
Some of them do, of course. But a lot more time is spent hiding under the altogether safer carapace of environmental activism, where they can point at something amorphous like global warming and talk about social justice in the remote terms of a carbon footprint, rather than censuring the rich and powerful who are doing the damage.
I just wish our bishops would be more honest. They offer an alternative world view to politicians and, instead of talking about reductions in carbon emissions and hoping that these help the poor, it would be good if they started with social justice and economic sustainability and those who stand in the way of them. And the planet might get saved as a bonus.

A greener Hula Hoop?

United Biscuits' decision to switch to more sustainable palm oil has done little to quell criticism by environmentalists
Palm oil is the 4x4 of processed food ingredients – ubiquitous (it's in one in 10 supermarket products), unnecessary (there are many more sustainable ways to get fat into our biscuits, ice creams and ready meals), and fantastically damaging to the environment.
The palm oil industry in south-eastern Asia is a major emitter of greenhouse gases, chiefly because of the process of clearing rain forest and underlying peat to plant the palms. If that doesn't move you – there's the orang-utans displaced for palm oil plantations to worry about. The palm oil industry is, it's said, the greatest threat orang-utans face.
And that doesn't look good for Penguins. Or Hula Hoops. So their makers, United Biscuits, has joined the list of big food corporations that, after years of fruitless lobbying by green groups, is beginning to take notice of the palm oil problem.UB has just announced that from spring next year Jaffa Cakes, McVities and its other brands so on will start to be made with palm oil from a company whose plantations are certified sustainable. And UB has committed to reduce the overall amount of palm oil it uses.
It sounds good, but this is not turning out to be quite the PR coup it looks. In fact the word 'greenwashing' is being bandied about. Greenpeace and other groups are not satisfied by the sustainability claims of New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL), UB's new supplier, which has plantations in Papua New Guinea. Its sustainability credentials are based on signing up to standards drawn up by the industry's own Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – which most environmental groups consider pretty inadequate.
Says Greenpeace's Ian Duff:
"It is a good thing that United Biscuits is able to trace the palm oil its uses back to source but until the RSPO standards used to define sustainability are improved, United Biscuits' customers will have little guarantee that these products are not contributing to the destruction of rainforest and driving climate change."
Greenpeace has evidence that some RSPO members (though not NBPOL) are still clearing rainforest and burning peat. It doesn't believe the RSPO's own guidelines are strong enough to prevent this. So don't hold your breath for the chance to pick up a green p-p-p Penguin.