The Environment

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  The Environment 2007, Al Gore, Fuel Efficiency, Cars, Global Warming, Extinction Of SpeciesDecember 30, 2007 19:15 An important article with a dismal if necessary message... follow the link to read the whole thing...

This year, Al Gore, the Man Who Was Almost President, received a stunning vindication from the Nobel Committee for his Paul Revere campaign about global warming. "The Earth has a fever, and the fever is rising," Gore said in his Nobel lecture in Oslo, Norway, in December as he accepted the Peace Prize, which he shared with the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. "The experts have told us it is not a passing affliction that will heal by itself. We asked for a second opinion -- and a third -- and a fourth -- and the consistent conclusion, restated with increasing distress, is that something basic is wrong. We are what is wrong, and we must make it right."

In 2007, even the United States stopped asking for a second opinion. The Bush administration now agrees that global warming is a threat. But all the plaudits heaped on Gore couldn't move the United States to, in Gore's words, "make it right." The United States remains the only industrialized nation not to endorse the goals of the Kyoto Protocol; Australia, the other big holdout, belatedly ratified the treaty's goals in December. Not coincidentally, Australia has recently been plagued by serious drought. But the United States, where the governor of drought-ridden Georgia held a prayer vigil in November in hopes of inspiring rain, was still not swayed. At the international climate talks in Bali, Indonesia, this December, the Bush administration refused to agree to any mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions, giving developing giant China cover to avoid any such restrictions itself.

Yet there are tantalizing signs that the American people are not waiting for the Bush administration to leave power to start taking steps to address the "planetary emergency" that Gore warns about. A Senate committee passed the first legislation that would impose mandatory limits on greenhouse gases. Although the bill may not make it to the president's desk, it's a sign that meaningful climate legislation is on the horizon. In the meantime, action is occurring at state and local levels. To date, some 725 U.S. mayors, representing 25 percent of the U.S. population, have signed a pledge to reduce greenhouse gases by 2012. In August, Illinois became the 26th state to require that some of the state's electricity come from renewable sources. And in October, Kansas became the first state to refuse a permit for a new coal-fired power plant because of the threat it would pose to public health and the atmosphere.

Frustration abounds in the scientific community. The IPCC's latest dire report, released in November, made bleaker projections than ever, yet climate scientists fear that the world's simply not heeding their alarm. More than 200 scientists were so fed up that in December they signed a petition calling for the world to take drastic action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050. In his Nobel lecture in Oslo, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, warned that unchecked warming could bring massive ice melting in Greenland and disappearing rainfall in many tropical areas. Yet he reminded the world that the worst threats can still be ameliorated: "The implications of these changes, if they were to occur, would be grave and disastrous," he said. "However, it is within the reach of human society to meet these threats." It looks like the United States -- and the world -- will have to wait for the next American president to begin to meet them.

 
  Petition Seeks Protection For SealsDecember 21, 2007 16:24 Frustrated by a lack of regulations limiting global warming, a conservation group wants ribbon seals listed as threatened or endangered because their habitat — sea ice — is disappearing amid climate change.

The Center for Biological Diversity on Thursday filed a 91-page petition with the National Marine Fisheries Service seeking to list ribbon seals as threatened or endangered. The group says the classification is needed because sea ice is disappearing due to climate change brought on by humans.

"The Arctic is in crisis state from global warming," said biologist Shaye Wolf, lead author of the petition. "An entire ecosystem is rapidly melting away and the ribbon seal is poised to become the first victim of our failure to address global warming."

A message left by The Associated Press on Thursday with the federal fisheries service was not immediately returned.

The petition marks the center's second attempt to use the Endangered Species Act to force action on global warming. Within weeks, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether to list polar bears as threatened because of habitat loss from global warming.

World climate experts who made up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported in February that global warming "very likely" is caused by human use of fossil fuels such as oil, gas and coal.

The Endangered Species Act requires animals to be categorized as endangered if they risk extinction due to destruction of their habitat. A species is threatened if it is likely to become endangered.

Either listing would require federal wildlife managers to create a recovery plan that could address U.S. causes of global warming. When considering permits for development, other federal agencies could be required to take action to avoid harm to threatened animals.
  Suit Filed To Protect 13 Species In Four StatesDecember 19, 2007 09:34 The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups filed lawsuits today challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to properly designate and protect “critical habitat” areas for 13 endangered species in Oregon, California, New Mexico and North Carolina. The suits are part of broader effort by the Center to challenge political corruption harming 55 endangered species and over 8.5 million acres of wildlife habitat. It filed simultaneous lawsuits challenging six other decisions in November.

Today’s lawsuits challenge the slashing of 4,223,036 acres of critical habitat for the California red-legged frog, arroyo toad, three plants in California and four invertebrates in New Mexico, and the failure to even consider critical habitat protection for four additional plants in California, Oregon and North Carolina.

Many of the flawed decisions in today’s 13 suits were engineered by Julie MacDonald, the disgraced former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Interior who resigned in March following a scathing report by the Inspector General. The Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General are currently conducting investigations political meddling in scientific decisions by MacDonald and other high level official in the Department of Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“Habitat loss is the number one killer of endangered species. These species won’t survive unless we protect their habitat,” said Michael Senatore, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Julie MacDonald’s is an endangered species death star. Her overruling of scientists is inexcusable.”

“The red-legged frog, arroyo toad and golden sedge have evolved over millions of years,” said Senatore, “It is immoral to sacrifice them for political gain. Federal scientists are doing their best to save endangered species, but are overruled at every turn by Bush administration bureaucrats.”

“The political problems in the Department of Interior run much deeper than MacDonald. The agency has descended into a culture of corruption the likes of which I’ve never seen before,” said Senatore.

Today’s suits were filed by attorneys at the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice. Forest Guardians is a co-plaintiff in the New Mexico invertebrates case.

 
  Carbon Cuts A Must To Halt Warming-Us ScientistsDecember 13, 2007 21:49 There is already enough carbon in Earth's atmosphere to ensure that sea levels will rise several feet (meters) in coming decades and summertime ice will vanish from the North Pole, scientists warned on Thursday.

To mitigate global warming's worst effects, including severe drought and flooding, people must not only cut current carbon emissions but also remove some carbon that has collected in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, they said.

"We're a lot closer to climate tipping points than we thought we were," said James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. "If we are to have any chance in avoiding the points of no return, we're going to have to make some changes."

The small amount of warming the Earth has experienced since the 1970s has already shrunk every glacier on the planet, scientists said this week at the 2007 meeting of the American Geophysical Union, where attention has focused on the unexpected acceleration of climate change.

"If you see that even a small amount of warming has had a notable effect on the ice, it's a good question what effect future warming will have," said Pennsylvania State University Professor Richard Alley.

Record melting occurred at the North Pole this summer, when for the first time in recorded history, ships sailed across the Arctic Ocean on water once covered by the polar ice cap.

In the summer of 1980, the North Pole was covered by an ice sheet about the size of the continental United States, but this year the ice would not have covered the states west of the Mississippi River.

 
  Al Gore Blames Us For Climate Change Deadlock In BaliDecember 13, 2007 21:06 In an impassioned hour-long speech interrupted many times by applause, former vice president and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore said the United States was stopping progress at the U.N. Climate Change talks in Bali.

"I am going to speak an inconvenient truth. My own country, the United States, is principally responsible for obstructing progress here in Bali. We all know that. We all know that," he said.

The Bali talks are aimed at launching negotiations to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012.

The United States strongly objects to a section in the draft document which asks industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by between 25 to 40 percent by 2020.

But the European Union and the vast majority of the delegates representing the 190 nations at the conference want the emission targets included to show that industrialized nations are serious about fighting global warming.

The United States, backed by Japan and Canada, say targets should come at a later date.
  George W. Bush’S ‘Convenient’ TruthDecember 10, 2007 07:20 When so many voices are shouting down the truth... what does it really mean?

The man whom the people elected in 2000 to be president was in the temporary residence of the man whom the Supreme Court anointed.

President George W. Bush hosted former Vice-President Al Gore, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and five other Nobel laureates on November 26. This annual handshake photo-op has been an American tradition.

The Nobel committee had cited Gore, on October 12, as “probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted” to reduce global warming. Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN network of about 2,000 scientists, who have shown that global warming isn’t a liberal conspiracy theory.

Believing that it is some kind of liberal conspiracy theory are the right-wing fringe who dominate Talk Radio and Pundit TV. The day after the announcement, Steve Doocy, co-anchor of FOX’s morning show, set the tone for the rabid-dog attacks. He produced a chart of past Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including “that crazy Jimmy Carter”, and claimed the award is nothing more than an “anti-Bush” trophy.

On CNN, guest commentator Marlo Lewis, who was identified as a global warming expert, called Gore’s writings manipulative, misleading, and exaggerated. Jay Richards of the National Review claimed the Peace prize is “politicised”.

Rush Limbaugh, who had a front group nominate him for the Peace Prize only to learn that the Landmark Legal Foundation had no standing to nominate anyone, was furious that Gore, not he, received the honour. With the microphone of more than 600 radio stations that carry his talk show, Limbaugh claimed his lawyers - the ones at the Landmark group - “are looking into the possibility of filing an objection with the Nobel Committee over the unethical tampering for this award that Al Gore is engaging in”. He claimed, “This is clearly above and beyond the pale. I mean, this might happen in high school class president elections and so forth, but this is shameless.”

Bloggers chattered almost endlessly that not only didn’t Gore deserve the award but also that global warming is a myth. The Nobel committee, blogged William Teach of Pirate’s Cove, “has basically surrendered to hysterics, mass exaggerators, and liars”.

Also doubting global warming, and volumes of scientific evidence, is Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), former chair of the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and recipient of one of the largest cumulative campaign donations from the oil and gas industry. Inhofe has claimed that there is “compelling evidence” that global warming not only is a hoax, but that it is “the greatest hoax ever perpetuated on the American people”.

George H.W. Bush, during his failed re-election campaign in 1992, called Gore “Ozone Man”, and claimed the vice-presidential candidate was “so far out in the environmental extreme we’ll be up to our necks in owls and outta work for every American”.
  Whalers In Alaska Fear Oil Drilling May Curtail Way Of LifeDecember 03, 2007 22:25 Each summer and fall, the Inupiat, natives of Alaska's arid north coast, take their sealskin boats and gun-fired harpoons and go whale hunting. Kills are celebrated throughout villages as whaling captains share their catch with relatives and neighbors. Muktuk, or raw whale skin and blubber, is a prized delicacy.

But now, that traditional way of life is coming into conflict with one of the modern world's most urgent priorities: finding more oil.

Royal Dutch Shell is determined to exploit vast reserves believed to lie off Alaska's coast. The Bush administration backs the idea and has issued offshore leases totaling an area nearly the size of Maryland in recent years.

Those leases have received far less attention than failed efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, but they may prove to be far more important. By some estimates, the oil under the Alaskan seabed could exceed the reserves remaining in the rest of the United States, though how much might ultimately be recoverable is uncertain.

Shell is eager to find out. It tried to make headway this summer, only to be stopped by an unusual alliance of Inupiat whalers and environmental groups who filed a suit in U.S. court.