Friday, January 30, 2009

Global Recession and Carbon Emissions

The global recession is making it difficult for countries and companies to participate in the cap and trade program for carbon emissions (Recession threatens carbon trading By James Melik Business reporter, BBC World Service Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/01/29 23:34:56 GMT © BBC MMIX).
Why stick with something that puts forth carbon when there's an alternative? Please see

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why The Complications? Why Carbon Emissions At All?

"EU urges US climate commitment
By Roger Harrabin Environment analyst, BBC News

The EU is calling on President Barack Obama to cap US carbon emissions and sign up to a global system of carbon trading between rich nations.
The European Commission said the US needed to join a carbon market if it was going to raise the huge sums needed for combating climate change.
Rich nations had to raise 175bn euros (£162bn; $321bn) by 2020 for clean technologies, the commission added.
More than half of that cash would go to developing countries, it stated.
A further 23-54bn euros would be need to help poor nations to adapt to climate change that was likely to happen.
Without that inducement to poor countries there would be no new global climate agreement at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen in December. " *****
Story from BBC NEWS: 2009/01/28 17:11:58 GMT

We need to help each other help the earth. But why carbon permits??? Even regulated carbon emissions are still making things worse. There's another way, an alternative that does not require carbon trading and which would benefit everyone in every country. For more information, please see

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Pollution, Biodiversity, Health, and Clean Energy

Diverse roots of human disease
Richard Black 23 Jan 09, 17:17 GMT Does loss of biodiversity affect human health?

"The United Nations Environment Programme believes it does - the notion was one of the top lines in the last edition of its massive five-yearly Global Environmental Outlook, which came out in 2007.

The nuts and bolts of the link, though, can come across as a bit tenuous - loss of species may affect the discovery of new drugs; biodiversity can impact water quality; and so on. They're not necessarily the most convincing arguments to those who pride themselves on having hard heads.

This week, I came across something a bit more concrete - and what makes it more interesting is that it relates to one of the really poor cousins of the medical research field, schistosomiasis.

Also known as bilharzia, this is a disease which receives so little attention and money that malaria is a rich prince by comparison. Yet it affects about 200m people and is said to be the second most devastating parasitic disease in the world - malaria being the first.

The parasites - flatworms of the genus Schistosoma - spend part of their lives in water-borne snails, and people - usually children - contract the infection from the water when the parasites swim free.

There's no vaccine, and there are really only two modes of attack - either giving regular doses of drugs such as praziquantel, or trying to eradicate the snails that carry the parasite, with chemicals such as copper sulphate.

Some people have looked at introducing crayfish to eat the snails - I hope something of an alarm bell rang there given the problems that invasive species have caused in some places around the world - or by introducing certain plants.

So Pieter Johnson, a researcher at the University of Colorado, asked a simple question; could the diversity of the snail population affect the number of parasites?

His team rigged up a series of experimental chambers in their lab. All had the same number of Planorbidae snails that carry the parasites, but he put in different numbers of other snail families that can't carry it.

As he reported in the Royal Society's journal Proceedings B this week, there was a definite impact. The number of Planorbidae infected fell by between a quarter and half when other types of snail were around.

The reason is probably what parasitologists call the "decoy effect". Some parasites will attempt to enter the wrong kinds of host - they can't, they die, and so there are fewer parasites around to infect the real hosts.

Now, this is a laboratory experiment - but if the results do hold true in the wild, here would be both a striking demonstration of the principle that biodiversity can beat disease, and something practical that the millions of people affected by schistosomiasis could use to protect themselves to some extent.

Simply keeping their ponds and streams in a state that preserves the range of native snails might reduce the number of people infected.

Implementing that remedy, however, might not be so straightforward given other environmental trends.

Agriculture is changing in many of the countries affected by schistosomiasis, even in its African heartlands.

Excess fertiliser running off farmland into water stimulates the growth of algae; and this appears to be an advantage to the disease-bearing snails, who can thrive on the green stuff, whereas other types die off.

(It's the same thing in microcosm that's happening to coral reefs; too much nutrition for algae brings the death of important native species - in this case, the coral polyps.)

You could argue, of course, that simply wiping out the wrong kind of snail would be more effective. But it's been tried, it has side effects, and it's a procedure that needs doing time and time again.

And wiping out the hosts wouldn't be an option for another condition where the link from biodiversity to human health has been demonstrated - Lyme disease.

Richard Ostfeld and his collaborators have shown that a diverse ecology reduces the number of white-footed mice, an important carrier of the ticks that transmit the disease.

Lyme disease is frequently in the news in North America, and I'm not surprised, having met a conservationist in Canada a few years ago who was still suffering the effects more than a decade after infection.

Schistosomiasis is rarely in the news anywhere. But it should be; it is one of the factors holding back the health and education of children in the poorest countries, and if simply keeping the right mix of snails alive would indeed help keep the parasite down, why not?

In the meantime, it's not my job to do the UN's publicity; but if they're looking for concrete evidence to show why biodiversity matters to the human race, perhaps the snail-ridden waters of Africa and Asia are places worth looking."

Pollution affects biodiversity. Biodiversity affects health. If there were no carbon emissions, there would be no pollution. For more information, please see

Monday, January 26, 2009

Money, Eminent Domain, Climate Change . . . And the Solution

China dams reveal flaws in climate-change weapon
By JOE McDONALD and CHARLES J. HANLEY, Associated Press Writers Joe Mcdonald And Charles J. Hanley, Associated Press Writers
38 mins ago
XIAOXI, China – The hydroelectric dam, a low wall of concrete slicing across an old farming valley, is supposed to help a power company in distant Germany contribute to saving the climate — while putting lucrative "carbon credits" into the pockets of Chinese developers.
But in the end the new Xiaoxi dam may do nothing to lower global-warming emissions as advertised. And many of the 7,500 people displaced by the project still seethe over losing their homes and farmland.
"Nobody asked if we wanted to move," said a 38-year-old man whose family lost a small brick house. "The government just posted a notice that said, 'Your home will be demolished.'"
The dam will shortchange German consumers, Chinese villagers and the climate itself, if critics are right. And Xiaoxi is not alone.
Similar stories are repeated across China and elsewhere around the world, as hundreds of hydro projects line up for carbon credits, at a potential cost of billions to Europeans, Japanese and soon perhaps Americans, in a trading system a new U.S. government review concludes has "uncertain effects" on greenhouse-gas emissions.
One American expert is more blunt.
"The CDM" — the 4-year-old, U.N.-managed Clean Development Mechanism — "is an excessive subsidy that represents a massive waste of developed world resources," says Stanford University's Michael Wara.
Forced relocations have become common in China as people in hundreds of communities are moved to clear land for factories and other projects, provoking anger and occasionally violent protests. But what happened here is unusual in highlighting not just the human costs, but also the awkward fit between China's authoritarian system, in which complaints of official abuse abound, and Western environmental ideals.
Those ideals produced the Clean Development Mechanism as a market-based tool under the Kyoto Protocol, the 1997 agreement to combat climate change. The CDM allows industrial nations, required by Kyoto to reduce emissions of gases blamed for global warming, to comply by paying developing nations to cut their emissions instead.
Companies thousands of miles away, such as Germany's coal-burning, carbon dioxide-spewing RWE electric utility, accomplish this by buying carbon credits the U.N. issues to clean-energy projects like Xiaoxi's. The proceeds are meant to make such projects more financially feasible.
As critics point out, however, if those projects were going to be built anyway, the climate doesn't gain, but loses.
Such projects "may allow covered entities" — such as RWE — "to increase their emissions without a corresponding reduction in a developing country," the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in its December review.
The system's defenders call it essential for hard-pressed industrialized nations to meet their Kyoto quotas, and say the CDM's standards are being tightened.
"It's not as if we're printing money in a garage," Yvo de Boer, U.N. climate chief, said of the credits. "Lots of legitimate questions are being asked," he acknowledged to The Associated Press, but "that's why I'm happy we have a transparent process."
That transparency — online project documents and a U.N. database — allowed the AP to analyze in detail this exploding market, which attracts projects ranging from small solar-power efforts in Africa, to emissions controls on giant chemical plants in India and China.
The AP has found that hydroelectric projects, whose climate impact is most widely questioned, have quickly become the No. 1 technology in the CDM, and China in particular is rushing in to capitalize.
The Chinese now have at least 763 hydro projects in the CDM approval pipeline and are adding an average of 25 a month. By 2012, those projects alone are expected to generate more than 300 million "certified emission reductions," each supposedly representing reduction of one ton of carbon dioxide. Even at recent depressed market prices, those credits would be worth $4 billion.
If the United States enters the Kyoto system, as proposed by President-elect Barack Obama, it would be the biggest player in a market expected to be worth hundreds of billions a year by 2030.
Here in central China's mist-shrouded Zishui River valley, evicted farmers worry not about carbon-market billions, but about the thousands of Chinese yuan doled out to compensate them for lost homes and farmland.
Xiaoxi residents said that when they were evicted in 2005 to make way for the dam and its 4-square-mile reservoir, officials paid too little for condemned homes and forcibly removed owners who held out for more.
They said payments for losing their rights to state-owned land, where they grew beans and squash, were far below China's legally required minimum, which they said requires payment of the value of at least five years' harvests.
Residents spoke with the AP on condition their names not be used, to avoid trouble with authorities.
The dam's state-owned builder, Hunan Xinshao Xiaoxi Hydropower Development Co., defended its dealings with the people of Xiaoxi.
"The compensation standard we adopted was relatively high compared with similar projects and was in accord with government regulations," said Wang Yi, assistant to the company's general manager.
For their homes, people said they were paid government-set prices of $4.60 to $5.70 per square foot. But such payments didn't go far, even in this remote town surrounded by small tin mines and steep, wooded hills.
"What I got certainly was not enough to buy a new place. We had to borrow more," said a man who stood holding his 1-year-old grandson in a street lined with new apartment buildings where some relocated families have moved.
He said officials refused to discuss compensation for thousands of yuan he had spent to fix up his family's house. "I refused their offer, but they forced us out and demolished it," he said.
The dam company says local surveys found overwhelming support for the project, with 97 percent of 212 respondents saying they were satisfied with their compensation. But people interviewed in Xiaoxi said they were not contacted for such surveys.
The CDM money has spawned an industry of consultants who help Chinese companies assemble bids for emissions credits, and of U.N.-certified "validators," firms that then attest that projects meet U.N. standards.
For Xiaoxi, the developer hired Germany's TUEV-SUED as validator, and then commissioned it again later to confirm that the project complied with European Union and German government requirements on "stakeholder consultation" — that local people approve of the project beforehand.
The TUEV-SUED report acknowledged that "the concerned villagers and their leaders were not involved in the decision process." But it contended the guidelines' "essence" was fulfilled because those affected "have improved their living environment."
The German Emissions Trading Authority approved Xiaoxi credits early last year, but that government agency's Wolfgang Seidel now tells the AP it is investigating questions newly raised about Xiaoxi. Julia Scharlemann, spokeswoman for beneficiary utility RWE, said it also was "making our own inquiries" regarding Xiaoxi.
A key question from environmentalists, led by the U.S.-based group International Rivers, is whether projects meet the CDM test of "additionality" — that they contribute to making real reductions of greenhouses gases rather than be business-as-usual projects capitalizing belatedly on the CDM bonanza.
At Xiaoxi, where the dam should be operating by 2010, construction began in 2004, two years before the developers applied for CDM credits, suggesting it would have been built without CDM money.
Company official Wang counters that CDM money will help pay retroactively for expensive Italian technology needed to cope with the site's complex geology. "Without the money from trading emissions credits, the project would be unprofitable," he said.
Environmentalists also point out that hydro power has long been a national priority in China. Since the 1990s — long before the CDM — the Chinese have added an average 7.7 gigawatts a year of hydro power, equivalent to six Hoover Dams annually, International Rivers reports.
In other words, Chinese planners aren't suddenly replacing emissions-heavy coal-fired power plants with emissions-free dams.
The Xiaoxi project design document, in fact, says Chinese regulations would block the building of such a relatively low-output coal plant here. But that's how planners determined the "emissions reductions" from the $183-million, 135-megawatt dam — by calculating how much carbon dioxide a 135-megawatt conventional power plant would produce instead.
That bottom line — some 450,000 tons of global-warming gases each year — would be added to RWE's permitted emissions if it buys the Xiaoxi credits, at a current annual cost of $8 million. And such calculations will be repeated at 37 other Chinese hydro projects where RWE will buy credits.
All told, the 38 are expected to produce more than 16 million CDM credits by 2012, legitimizing 16 million tons of emissions in Germany, equivalent to more than 1 percent of annual German emissions.
At today's low market prices, those credits would be worth some $300 million, paid to Chinese developers and presumably billed to German electricity customers, who by 2007 were already paying more than double the U.S. average rate per kilowatt-hour.
Utilities from Italy's Edison to Tokyo Electric are making similar deals for hydro-project credits in a dozen other countries, from Peru to India to Vietnam.
Rather than reduce their own emissions, "firms in developed countries are buying offsets that don't represent real behavioral change, real reductions in emissions," said Wara, the environmental law professor.
The U.S. GAO investigators said they learned that middlemen sometimes manipulate project paperwork to show a need for CDM financing, and they believe "a substantial number" of projects have undeservedly received credits.
The CDM system "can be 'gamed' fairly easily," said German expert Axel Michaelowa, both a critic and a CDM insider, as a member of the U.N. team that registers CDM projects.
But Michaelowa said the CDM remains "a crucial bridge between industrialized and developing countries." It has problems but they can be solved, he said.
Christiana Figueres, a Costa Rican ex-member of the board overseeing the CDM, echoed Michaelowa's view. She said it's crucial to encourage China in particular, whose coal power plants make it the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, to build clean-energy facilities. And she counters critics who oppose dams in general because of their environmental impact.
"We cannot continue to demonize hydro," Figueres told the AP.
She and R.K. Sethi, the CDM Executive Board's Indian chairman, both pointed to reforms since 2007: A reinforced U.N. oversight staff, a validators' manual with stringent standards, and a growing number of board reappraisals of validator findings.
In two recent dramatic steps, the board suspended the CDM's most active validator, the Norwegian firm DNV, questioning its project assessments, and it rejected its first Chinese hydro project — after registering 139 others for credits. The project wasn't "additional," the board said, rejecting DNV's validation that it was.
But environmentalists say a total overhaul is needed, shifting from project-by-project assessments that invite "gaming," to a negotiated regime whereby the developed world, through aid funds, subsidizes emissions cuts in the developing world more broadly, industrial sector by sector.
As atmospheric carbon dioxide continues to reach record levels, threatening disruptive warming this century, the CDM pipeline continues to swell, with 4,364 projects worldwide approved or awaiting approval, one-quarter of them hydroelectric.
Here in Xiaoxi, meanwhile, where project credits await U.N. approval, dam construction jobs have produced an economic boomlet, but it's only temporary and people's grievances are not.
One group, hopeful still for a hearing, has written to authorities with their plea for more yuan for farmers' lost way of life.
"We strongly request that they give us an explanation and a satisfactory resolution," they wrote.
Joe McDonald reported from China, and Charles J. Hanley from New York. Associated Press Writer Patrick McGroarty in Berlin contributed.
There is another way to get the energy we need, without spending so much money or turning people out of their homes. For more information, please see

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ice and Global Warming . . . But There's A Solution

New evidence on Antarctic warming
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

The continent of Antarctica is warming up in step with the rest of the world, according to a new analysis.
Scientists say data from satellites and weather stations indicate a warming of about 0.6C over the last 50 years.
Writing in the journal Nature, they say the trend is "difficult to explain" without the effect of rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, scientists in Antarctica say a major ice shelf is about to break away from the continent.
The Wilkins Ice Shelf is said to be "hanging by a thread" from the Antarctic Peninsula, the strip of land pointing from the white continent towards the southern tip of South America.

In isolation
Most of Antarctica's scientific stations are located along the peninsula, and scientists have known for many years that this portion of the continent is getting warmer.
But trends across the bulk of the continent have been much harder to discern, mainly because data from land stations is scarce.
It is somewhat insulated from the rest of the world's weather systems by winds and ocean currents that circulate around the perimeter.
In the new analysis, a team of US scientists combined data from land stations with satellite readings
"We have at least 25 years of data from satellites, and satellites have the huge advantage that they can see the whole continent," said Eric Steig from the University of Washington in Seattle.
"But the [land] stations have the advantage that they go back much further in time.
"So we combined the two; and what we found, in a nutshell, is that there is warming across the whole continent, it's stronger in winter and spring but it is there in all seasons."
They conclude that the eastern region of the continent, which is larger and colder than the western portion, is warming at 0.1C per decade, and the west at 0.17C per decade - faster than the global average.
The 2007 assessment of the global climate by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded: "It is likely that there has been significant anthropogenic (human-induced) warming over the past 50 years averaged over each continent except Antarctica", with the word "likely" in this context meaning "at least 66% probability".
The scientists said this study did not change that picture, with natural climatic cycles probably involved as well as elevated greenhouse gas concentrations.
"It's hard to think of any situation where increased greenhouse gases would not lead to warming in Antarctica," said Drew Shindell from Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (Giss) in New York.
"We're almost certain that greenhouse gas increases are contributing to this warming, but what's difficult is to attribute this warming and so say how much is down to natural warming and how much down to anthropogenic causes."
Last year, scientists from the UK Met Office used climate models to attribute trends at the poles, and concluded that human emissions of greenhouse gases were largely responsible for the observed warming.
Gareth Marshall from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), who was not involved in the analysis, commented: "This study shows that, similar to the other six continents, Antarctica has undergone a significant warming over the past 50 years.
"The magnitude of this warming is similar to the rest of the southern hemisphere, where we believe it is likely that human activity has played some role in the temperature increase, and therefore it is also likely that this is the case regarding an Antarctic warming."

Cool analysis
Over the last 30 years, satellites have also shown that sea ice is slowly growing in extent around Antarctica, which some observers say indicates a cooling across the continent or at least in the surrounding seas.
But Walt Meier from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, which follows ice trends at the poles, said wind patterns were probably the main reason.
"Around Antarctica, the winds play a much bigger role than they do in the Arctic," he said.
"If they're blowing northwards you can grow ice quite quickly and in contrast if they blow southwards the ice can contract quickly, whereas in the Arctic it's much more constrained (by land masses).
"So this positive trend in the Antarctic is certainly not an indication of any cooling trend."
One region that has seen spectacular losses of ice in recent years is the peninsula.
A BAS team currently on site is reporting that the Wilkins shelf, about 15,000 sq km in area, is probably about to break free.
"It really could go at any minute, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if the final cracks started to appear very soon," said BAS's David Vaughan.
If it does, it will follow the course of other shelves that have made breakaways in recent years, such as the Larsen B in 2002.
Although spectacular, such events are not necessarily due to man-made climate change.
A much bigger question is whether the new analysis of Antarctic warming heralds any major melting in the West Antarctic ice sheet, which could led to big changes in sea level and global impacts.
"The vulnerability is higher than we thought, but still we face uncertainties in understanding these processes that make it very difficult to forecast when these changes would occur," said Drew Shindell.

The Antartic is one of many ecosystems on earth. When one is hurt or destroyed, all are affected. But this doesn't have to happen. There's an answer: no-emissions energy.
No-emissions energy means no global warming, no ecosystems change.
For more information, please see

Monday, January 19, 2009

"Setting out Obama's green agenda
Peter Seligmann

Barack Obama will become the 44th president of the US as the world is engulfed in a global economic crisis, says Peter Seligmann. He calls on the new president not to ignore the environment, which is "rapidly reaching a tipping point".

What an odd juxtaposition of almost giddy anticipation and deep anxiety as we prepare for a US presidential inauguration that will be celebrated worldwide.
Hopes for a new year and a new global leader of vision and courage collide with a tremendous angst as people everywhere are engulfed by the global economic crisis.

Alongside the urgent action needed to keep the economy afloat, there is a course that President-elect Barack Obama can chart that will help our global society move into a new era of sustained security.

This security is not only for our economies, but also for our health and for present and future generations to thrive.

Another young US president, Theodore Roosevelt, summed up that course about 100 years ago when he said: "The conservation of natural resources is the fundamental problem.

"Unless we solve that problem it will avail us little to solve all others."

'Tipping point'

As Mr Obama becomes the 44th president, one of his toughest challenges is also his greatest opportunity.

The global environment is rapidly reaching a tipping point, much like our global economy.

Once it passes that point, it will be all the more difficult to pull it back to stability.

Our Earth is being altered to the point where it cannot sustain much of the life that has thrived for millennia; species extinctions today are occurring at an estimated 1,000 times the normal rate.

When our landscapes, rivers and coral reefs can no longer sustain robust species populations, humans are also in trouble.

People depend on healthy ecosystems for the very fundamentals of survival: clean air, fresh water, soil regeneration, crop pollination and other resources that we often take for granted until they are scarce or gone.

Just as the current financial crisis reveals how the world's economies are interconnected, we also must recognise the fundamental links between human well-being and Earth's ecosystems.

When we abuse and degrade the natural world, it affects our health, our social stability and our wallets.

Natural capital

How great is the challenge?

Well, today, 25% of wild marine fisheries are over-exploited, while another 50% are highly degraded.

West African fisheries have declined by 80% since the 1990s, resulting in thousands of fishermen searching for jobs in Europe.

When the Newfoundland cod fisheries collapsed in the early 1990s as a result of overfishing, it meant the loss of tens of thousands of jobs and cost $2bn (£1.4bn) in income support and retraining.

Tropical deforestation and land degradation contributes more global greenhouse gas emissions than all the world's cars, trucks, planes and trains combined.

What is lost in Indonesia or the Amazon affects the climate in New York, Paris and Sydney.

More than a billion people lack access to safe drinking water. In the poorest countries, one in five children dies from a preventable water-related disease.

This is a crisis that is worsening as ecosystems are damaged, increasing droughts and floods.

Mismanagement and corruption tied to natural resource exploitation have fuelled violent conflict in many countries including Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Violence linked to natural resource loss and degradation has led to unimaginable human suffering in such places as Darfur.

Tensions in the Middle East are fed by conflict over water and oil, as well as religion and politics.

Under pressure

Now, climate change exacerbates the threats posed by over-consumption, pollution and habitat destruction.

We are already witnessing rising oceans, spreading disease, reduced freshwater sources and myriad other serious threats.

Recent studies show half of the world's population could face a climate-induced food crisis by the end of this century.

Yet as overwhelming as the global environmental crisis has become, it offers some of today's greatest opportunities.

First, we must make conservation of nature a core principle of development; they cannot be separated.

Often an unintended consequence of development projects is the depletion or degradation of natural systems. We must recognise the value of nature and invest to protect it.

Ecosystem destruction costs our global economy at least $2 trillion (£1.4 trillion) every year.

That is the value forests provide by storing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, cleansing fresh water supplies, and preventing soil erosion.

It includes the value oceans and coral reefs provide in food security for millions who rely on fisheries as their primary source of protein.

Overall, global ecosystems services have been assessed to be worth as much as $33 trillion (£22.6 trillion) a year.

Every home owner understands that restoring and replacing a plumbing system, or a heating unit, is far more expensive than taking care of the system properly.

Well, the same is true for nature's ecosystems.

Restoring a forest costs 10 times as much as maintaining what we have. Building a reservoir and filtration system is far more expensive than preserving the intact forest systems that naturally filter and cleanse our drinking water.

Traditional measures of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) do not reflect changes in the quality and quantity of a nation's natural assets.

Imagine measuring your personal financial condition without factoring in a dramatic and ongoing decline in your assets.

The world needs US leadership to begin honestly accounting for the state our natural assets.

The Obama administration can bring these issues into the mainstream during this critical time of reorienting the US's national priorities.

Initiatives to advance natural resource conservation in other countries have typically lacked strong political support and received only a small fraction of the total resources dedicated to international engagement.

Mr Obama and his team should fully integrate and fund ecosystem conservation priorities within US national security considerations, as well as foreign policy and development assistance.

By helping restore and protect developing nations' natural heritage throughout the world, the US will strengthen the bonds of friendship and trust through sustainable collaborations.

The stakes are high, and the benefits of bringing ecosystem conservation to the forefront of our foreign policy will be enormous.

As 2009 begins, we face a new era of unprecedented global economic, health and security challenges.

Confronting these challenges requires a bold new commitment to protect our most valuable joint asset - planet Earth.

Peter A Seligmann is chairman and chief executive of US NGO Conservancy International

The Green Room is a series of opinion articles on environmental topics running weekly on the BBC News website

Do you agree with Peter Seligmann? Do you think Barack Obama's administration will take the environment seriously? Do you think the US will be a serious player in the global green agenda? Or are the problems facing the world too big for one nation to make a difference?"

Hunger. Water pollution. Air pollution. Global warming. Climate change. Geopolitical unrest. We can work together. There is an answer: please see

Friday, January 16, 2009

Endangered Species, Pollution, Alternative Energy

Endangered Species, plant and animal species that are in danger of extinction (dying out). Over 8,300 plant species and 7,200 animal species around the globe are threatened with extinction, and many thousands more become extinct each year before biologists can identify them. The primary causes of species extinction or endangerment are habitat destruction, commercial exploitation (such as plant collecting, hunting, and trade in animal parts), damage caused by nonnative plants and animals introduced into an area, and pollution. Of these causes, direct habitat destruction threatens the greatest number of species. *****

Species become extinct or endangered for a number of reasons, but the primary cause is the destruction of habitat by human activities (see Environment). As species evolve, most adapt to a specific habitat or environment that best meets their survival needs. Without this habitat the species may not survive. Pollution, drainage of wetlands, conversion of shrub lands to grazing lands, cutting and clearing of forests, urbanization and suburbanization, climate change due to global warming, and road and dam construction have destroyed or seriously damaged and fragmented available habitats. *****

Pollution is another important cause of extinction. Toxic chemicals—especially chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)—have become concentrated in food webs, the interconnected food chains that circulate energy through an ecosystem. These toxic chemicals strongly affect species near the top of the food chain. Both DDT and PCBs interfere with the calcium metabolism of birds, causing soft-shelled eggs and malformed young. PCBs also impair reproduction in some carnivorous animals. Water pollution and increased water temperatures have wiped out endemic species of fish in many habitats. Oil spills destroy birds, fish, and mammals, and may contaminate the ocean floor for many years after the event. Acid rain, the toxic result of extreme air pollution, has been known to kill organisms in freshwater lakes and destroy large tracts of forested land. *****
Reviewed By:
Reed F. Noss, B.S., M.S., Ph.D.
Research Associate, Center for Conservation Biology, Stanford University. Courtesy Associate Professor, Fisheries and Wildlife Department, Oregon State University. Editor of Conservation Biology.
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Pollution, climate change, global warming, deforestation . . . something can be done, using totally green, totally sustainable alternative energy. For more information, please see

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Carbon? Why?

World 'needs radical cuts' on CO2
By Tanya Syed
BBC News

Renewable technologies could help arrest climate change
More carbon dioxide needs to be absorbed than emitted by 2050 in order to prevent catastrophic climate change.

That is the conclusion of a report by the Worldwatch Institute which urges bigger cuts in greenhouse emissions.

The authors say that even a rise in temperatures of 2 degrees C poses unacceptable risks to natural systems.
Global greenhouse gas emissions need to peak before 2020 and decrease drastically until 2050, the report says.

More CO2 will have to be absorbed than emitted in the second half of this century.

The report outlines 10 key challenges that must be adopted to avoid catastrophic climate change.

These include long-term planning, global co-operation and innovative solutions such as improved building design incorporating a variety of efficiency measures.

But they add that it is still possible to arrest and manage climate change with renewable technologies and more efficient ways of living.

But does there have to be emissions? What if there were no emissions to cut?
For the answers to those questions, please see

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Geopolitics-free Research Into Energy Alternatives

In a recent article----
Gulf Oil States Seeking a Lead in Clean Energy
Published: January 12, 2009

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — With one of the highest per capita carbon footprints in the world, these oil-rich emirates would seem an unlikely place for a green revolution.

Gasoline sells for 45 cents a gallon. There is little public transportation and no recycling. Residents drive between air-conditioned apartments and air-conditioned malls, which are lighted 24/7.

Still, the region’s leaders know energy and money, having built their wealth on oil. They understand that oil is a finite resource, vulnerable to competition from new energy sources.

So even as President-elect Barack Obama talks about promoting green jobs as America’s route out of recession, gulf states, including the emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, are making a concerted push to become the Silicon Valley of alternative energy.

They are aggressively pouring billions of dollars made in the oil fields into new green technologies. They are establishing billion-dollar clean-technology investment funds. And they are putting millions of dollars behind research projects at universities from California to Boston to London, and setting up green research parks at home.

“Abu Dhabi is an oil-exporting country, and we want to become an energy-exporting country, and to do that we need to excel at the newer forms of energy,” said Khaled Awad, a director of Masdar, a futuristic zero-carbon city and a research park that has an affiliation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, that is rising from the desert on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. *****

The world is now consuming 80 million barrels of oil a day, and that could continue to rise steeply over the coming decades if population and consumption trends continue. That could mean having to add six Saudi Arabias worth of oil output just to keep up, according to Mr. Barker-Homek, at a time when scientists are warning that carbon levels need to be cut significantly to avoid potentially disastrous global warming.
For the rest of the world, the enormous cash infusion may provide the important boost experts say is needed to get dozens of emerging technologies — like carbon capture, microsolar and low-carbon aluminum — over the development hump to make them cost-effective.
“The impact has been enormous,” said Michael McGehee, the associate professor at Stanford who received the $25 million Saudi grant. “It has greatly accelerated the development process.”

Director of the largest solar cell research group in the world, Professor McGehee had tried and failed to get money from the United States government or American industries to commercialize cheaper solar cells. Research money is tight, he noted.

With the Saudi money he has hired 16 new researchers and expects the new energy cells to dominate the market by 2015. “People are astonished to see how big this grant is and where it came from,” he said, noting that his past grants from the United States government were one-fiftieth that amount.

Experts say the vast investments from the gulf states have already restarted stalled environmental technologies.

Hooray for them!!!! They are trying to solve problems. Why can't we do that here????? But we can, and for how we can, please see for a totally sustainable, totally green energy free of emissions and more cost effective than even the alternatives already available.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Geopolitics and . . . Nukes

It's so duh that something so inefficient from an energy-producing point of view (takes years to finish and there are so many considerations of climate, ecology, health, safety, etc.) should also be used as a weapon (but do those take as long? yet I don't really want to find out) and cause so much tension regional and global tension. Perhaps if people would just realize how inefficient nukes are, they'd stop using them for weapons too. And anyway, there's another answer, a more-efficient-with-time-and-money answer, that can't be fashioned into a weapon. For more info, please see

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Geopolitics and . . . Natural Gas

In Europe, business problems between a country supplying natural gas and a country buying it have affected more than just the supplier country and client country--other countries are having problems too. But there is a way to avoid business problems connected with natural gas . . . and any other fuel, for that matter. Please see for information about an energy alternative that people do not have to look to others to supply. And this self-sufficient energy is green, as opposed to natural gas or any other type of fossil fuel.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Geopolitics and . . . Oil

Geopolitics: how land and particularly fuel derived from land influences, even determines, politics. And the influence can be bad when people use geopolitics as an excuse for trying to get their own way about something else. On an individual basis we've all done it: started an argument or done something because we're unhappy or downright angry about something, but used something else as an excuse, for whatever reason. That is understandable, but it's not helpful to us as individuals or to us on a national and global level, even though it might make us feel better at the time, better in the sense of anger vented. However, when it comes to, well, anything, but perhaps as per politics and land, especially fuel, globally, we need to use domestic resources first, without destroying the land itself (but that's a whole 'nother blog), and then, if we need to, buy from other countries.

According to the Department of Energy, “fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas -- currently provide more than 85% of all the energy consumed in the United States, nearly two-thirds of our electricity, and virtually all of our transportation fuels” (

According to the Energy Information Administration,,
the United States bought oil from eighty-five countries from May 2008 to October 2008, for a total of 2,364,640 barrels.

From the Persian Gulf countries: 434, 714

Iraq: 115,201

Saudi Arabia: 284,238

Venezuala: 222, 175

Russia: 94,327

Why depend on foreign oil? What happens when all the oil other places is used up? And don't they need some of their own fuel?

But why depend on oil at all? We don't need it.

For what we do need, see