Monday, 18 January 2010

UN report on glaciers melting is based on 'speculation'

An official prediction by the United Nations that the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035 may be withdrawn after it was found to be based on speculation rather than scientific evidence.

By Richard Alleyne, Science CorrespondentPublished: 3:00PM GMT 17 Jan 2010
Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) made the claim which it said was based on detailed research into the impact of global warming.
But the IPCC have since admitted it was based on a report written in a science journal and even the scientist who was the subject of the original story admits it was not based on fact.

The article, in the New Scientist, was not even based on a research paper - it evolved from a short telephone interview with the academic.
Dr Syed Hasnain, an Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, said that the claim was "speculation" and was not supported by any formal research.
Professor Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report, said he would recommend that the claim about glaciers be dropped.
The IPCC's reliance on Hasnain's 1999 interview has been highlighted by Fred Pearce, the journalist who carried out the original interview.
Mr Pearce said he rang Hasnain in India in 1999 after spotting his claims in an Indian magazine.
He said that Dr Hasnain made the assertion about 2035 but admitted it was campaigning report rather than an academic paper that was reviewed by a panel of expert peers.
Despite this it rapidly became a key source for the IPCC when Prof Lal and his colleagues came to write the section on the Himalayas.
When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was "very high".
The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90 per cent.
The report read: "Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate."
However, glaciologists find such figures inherently ludicrous, pointing out that most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick and could not melt fast enough to vanish by 2035 unless there was a huge global temperature rise. The maximum rate of decline in thickness seen in glaciers at the moment is two to three feet a year and most are far lower.

Seal hunters face battle with EU over trade

Carl Mortished, World Business Editor

Hunters in Canada and Greenland are challenging a European Union regulation banning the import of seal products. Aboriginal people in northern Canada and Greenland fear that the EU law will destroy the trade in seal pelts, remove a vital source of income for families and force Arctic communities to live off handouts.
Adopted in response to pressure from animal rights activists, the law prohibits the import of seal products, including meat and pelts, into the EU.
Auctions at Copenhagen are a leading trading centre for fur and Inuit hunters had been earning 300-500 Danish kroner (£35-£60) for each seal pelt. But the new law, which came into effect in September, caused the price to collapse and two Inuit organisations — Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, of Canada, and Inuit Circumpolar Council, in Greenland — are challenging it even though it includes an exemption “for traditional hunting by indigenous communities which contribute to their subsistence”.
The prohibition is suspended until July while the European Commission seeks to define the scope of “traditional hunting”. Inuit groups have expressed dismay over the attempt by civil servants in Brussels to regulate their way of life.

Aqqaluk Lynge, president of Inuit Circumpolar Council in Greenland, said that EU officials wanted the Inuit to live as they did 300 years ago. “They want to decide what kind of traditional hunting we do and who should be allowed to eat seal meat.”
Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said that the ban was at odds with the EU’s tolerance of factory farming. “It is bitterly ironic that the EU ... seeks to preach some kind of selective morality to Inuit. At best this is cultural bias, although it could be described in harsher terms.”
Michaëlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, recently joined the controversy over the seal ban. In a gesture widely seen as a challenge to European anti-fur activists, Ms Jean, who was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, took part in an Inuit ceremony, cut up a seal and ate its heart, pronouncing the meat “good, like sushi”.
The governments of Norway and Canada have already launched legal challenges to the EU regulation at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where trade experts are expecting Brussels to become embroiled in a political row that will set the anti-fur trade lobby into conflict with supporters of the rights of aboriginal people.
The Commission accepts that seal populations are not at risk and has acknowleged that legislators are responding to vigorous campaigning by anti-fur trade groups.
Mr Lynge said that, without income from hunting, Inuit communities would have to live off state handouts. “It is a very harsh measure that will hit small communities dependent on hunting to put food on the table,” he said. “They are listening to lobbyists that don’t care about people. We live on the edge of survival. That is how we have lived for a thousand years. We don’t have the money that the extremist animal rights groups have.”
The ban is expected to encounter legal difficulties at the WTO, where the EU will be forced to defend its prohibition under Article 20 of the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT), which defines the exceptions under which a state can hinder trade. These include conservation measures, but, because seal populations have been increasing, the main defence by Brussels is likely to be the exception in the GATT treaty relating to “protection of public morals”.
Public morality is rarely invoked in trade disputes. Most recently it was rejected by the WTO in a case where China sought to justify local control of the distribution of imported audiovisual material on such grounds.
Eastern promise
Canada is courting China as an alternative market for seal products after the European Union’s ban. Gail Shea, the Canadian Fisheries Minister, recently attended Beijing’s International Leather and Fur Show, hoping to expand the market for seal oil and seal meat, as well as fur.

Boris Johnson acts to boost London's recycle rates

London Mayor Boris Johnson backs US scheme Recycle Bank which gives people shopping vouchers to value of recycling

Hélène Mullholland, Monday 18 January 2010 00.05 GMT
The mayor of London Boris Johnson will today outline plans for a scheme that rewards recycling households as he aims to cut the amount of rubbish going to landfill sites.
Johnson is backing a London-based trial of an American scheme called Recycle Bank, which gives householders shopping vouchers or donations to charity to the value of how much they recycle.
Johnson estimates a typical London household would make £14 a month under the scheme, one of a series of proposals contained in a draft municipal waste strategy.
Figures show the capital's recycling rates lagging behind both the rest of the UK and other international cities.
Johnson, who chairs the London Waste and Recycling Board, wants to save £90m per year through more recycling, better co-ordination and greater investment in less polluting technologies.
Just 25% of the four million tonnes of household waste generated each year by Londoners is recycled, with half going to landfill sites. The remainder goes to incinerators. Johnson is writing to all London borough leaders to ask them to redouble their efforts in recycling and, reminding them of pressure on future council tax bills if they fail to act.

How to tackle Chinese crab invasion: send them home

Creatures regarded as pests in Britain are prized by diners across the Far East
By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor
Monday, 18 January 2010
They are becoming as big a pest in Britain as the grey squirrel or Japanese knotweed, and seemingly impossible to control. But the answer to dealing with Chinese mitten crabs, the invasive species infesting the Thames and other English rivers with damaging results, may be simple: eat them.
The large and aggressive Asian crabs with their hairy mitten-like claws are damaging native wildlife and river embankments as they spread across the country. Yet diners in China, Japan and Singapore consider them a tremendous delicacy, and will pay the equivalent of £24 for a single mitten crab in the right condition. It is a famous ingredient of Shanghai cuisine, and the roe is especially prized.
There has been no check, natural or otherwise, on the species' expansion. But Paul Clark, a marine biologist at the Natural History Museum, believes human consumption may be the answer. "It is a huge pest problem," he said. "It burrows into river banks and causes them to collapse, and is very damaging to native wildlife." In the Thames, it is now present in such numbers that there is also a risk that the crabs may clog the water intakes of power stations and other industrial facilities along the river. It is steadily spreading across Britain and it is "only a matter of time" before it reaches Scotland, he added.
Dr Clark is organising a conference in London in March to explore whether the abundant mitten crabs of the Thames – and there may be millions of them – can be harvested commercially, as a means of controlling their numbers. The possibility of setting up a mitten crab fishery in the Thames has been mooted thanks to a recent study which concluded that mitten crabs from the river were fit for human consumption, and that the population was large enough to be exploited.
Trials have shown that the best way to catch them is by the use of fyke nets, long bag-shaped nets which are held open by hoops. The fishery would have to be located in the lower Thames, between Greenwich and Erith, because it is to here, in the more saline water, that all the mature mitten crabs of the river migrate in the autumn to spawn – which is when they are their most edible.
Dr Clark said the conference will also be looking at the risks posed by a commercial fishery. The trials showed that the fyke nets used to catch the crabs attracted a substantial bycatch of eels, which are increasingly considered a threatened species in Europe. Furthermore, he thinks there is a risk that if a fishery took off and was commercially successful, people might intentionally disperse the crabs into other UK rivers, with the intention of making money.
"We are damned if we do and damned if we don't. "Mitten crabs have few natural enemies capable of reducing their numbers, but the establishment of a fishery would certainly carry risks."
The mittened mini-monster was first recorded in Britain in the Thames in 1935 having almost certainly arrived as larvae in the ballast water of ships from the Far East. It is found as far upstream as Windsor, and has also spread to other watercourses as far north as the Tyne. With a body the size of a human palm, and legs double the width of that, Eriocheir sinensis has spread around most of Europe during the last century, and has also arrived in the US, where it is considered a major pest.
Not welcome in Britain: Troublesome aliens
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) is the UK's most invasive non-native plant. The Victorians introduced it as an ornamental plant, but fertile British lands lacking in biologicalenemies have enabled it to flourish.
Grey squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis)are to blame for the decline of the UK’s native red squirrels, of which there are estimated to be only 140,000 remaining. Greys were brought fromAmerica in the late 19th century,and red squirrels are usually displaced within 15 years of theirarrival locally.
Harlequin ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) are a recent addition to Britain and are the most invasive ladybirds on earth. They arrived in the UKin 2004, but were introduced to North America in 1988 and have since become the most widespread ladybird species on the continent.
The Rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula krameri) has already caused serious damage to crops in Britain. It is found mainly in London and southern England, but how it wasfirst introduced is unclear. It is noted for its loud, screeching calls.

EU's emissions struggle

Ministers must overcome differences in climate-change strategy
SEVILLE, Spain—European Union countries are struggling to agree on a target for reducing greenhouse-gas emissions ahead of a Jan. 31 deadline to deliver a concrete offer to the United Nations following the Copenhagen accord.
France, Germany, the U.K. and Spain said they favor adopting a more-ambitious target to reduce emissions to 30% below 1990 levels by 2020, compared with the 20% target the EU is committed to—if others were to match that offer.
But EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said member states weren't unanimous on a target, and French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said Poland opposed going deeper than the 20% target. Italian Environment Minister Stefania Prestigiacomo said even to talk about boosting the target to 30% after the "failure of Copenhagen" as if nothing had happened is "frankly surreal."
EU environment ministers were meeting in Seville this weekend to discuss climate-change strategy after the Copenhagen climate summit in December rendered only a nonbinding accord. It still needs to be fleshed out by concrete emission-cut targets by industrialized countries and voluntary actions from developing countries by Jan. 31. "We definitely think we should maintain the 30%. It has always been a conditional offer, but it is a very important signal that it is maintained," said Ed Miliband, the U.K.'s energy and climate-change secretary.
German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said the EU should move beyond its commitment made in Copenhagen.
"Twenty percent is not enough," he said. "Twenty percent won't make Europe the global driving force" in climate-change policies. Germany has committed itself to a 40% reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from 1990 levels.
Ms. Prestigiacomo said no one has explained how going from a 20% to a 30% emission-cut target could unblock the stalled global climate talks, while a 20% cut is already a gigantic strain on Europe's productive system.

Toyota to double hybrid output in 2011 -Nikkei

Reuters, Monday January 18 2010
* Plans to introduce about 10 new hybrid models - Nikkei
* 1 mln hybrid production in line with expectations - analyst
* Toyota shares down 1 pct vs 1.2 pct Topix decline (Adds company comment)
By Taiga Uranaka
TOKYO, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Toyota Motor Corp aims to double its global output of gas-electric hybrid cars to 1 million units in 2011, as it fights to stay in the lead in the growing market for low-emission cars, the Nikkei business reported on Monday.
Toyota, the world's largest automaker, had said it aimed to sell 1 million models annually worldwide soon after 2010 and has been ramping up its push on hybrids, introducing the Sai sedan in Japan recently, the brand's second hybrid-only model.
Low emission hybrids have enjoyed strong sales thanks to generous subsidies and tax breaks. The Prius, Toyota's flagship hybrid, became Japan's best-selling car in 2009.
"For the foreseeable future, the focus of Toyota's (low-emission car) strategy will be on hybrids, not electric or fuel-cell cars," said Yoshihiko Tabei, chief analyst at Kazaka Securities, adding the production volume reported by the Nikkei was in line with his expectations.
"Except for Honda, Toyota is facing little competition in hybrids and is set to put distance between itself and other automakers."
Honda Motors produces a rival hybrid, the Insight, whose popularity has so far trailed behind that of the Prius.
Toyota plans to add about 10 new hybrid models in the next few years to its existing lineup and to increase the number of sites where it can assemble hybrid models, the Nikkei said without citing sources.
Toyota's global production of hybrid cars is likely to have been 500,000 units in 2009, accounting for about 8 percent of its overall production, the paper said.
Toyota has already expanded its hybrid production sites beyond Japan to include China, the United States, Thailand and Australia, typically receiving some form of state-backed incentives to build the fuel-efficient vehicles locally.
Shares of Toyota were down 1 percent at 4,160 yen as of 0200 GMT, compared with a 1.2 percent decline in the Topix index. (Reporting by Taiga Uranaka; Editing by David Dolan)