Environment Correspondent
Deborah's Feed
Apr 6, 2010

Philippines dragon-sized lizard is a new species

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A dragon-sized, fruit-eating lizard that lives in the trees on the northern Philippines island of Luzon has been confirmed as a new species, scientists reported on Tuesday.

Hunted for its tasty flesh, the brightly colored forest monitor lizard can grow to more than six feet in length but weighs only about 22 pounds (10 kg), said Rafe Brown of the University of Kansas, whose team confirmed the find.

Mar 25, 2010

FBI probes threats over Democrats’ healthcare vote

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI and police are investigating attacks and threats against Democratic members of Congress who voted for healthcare reform, and a senior House of Representatives Democrat said on Wednesday his colleagues are at risk.

Democrats decried heated Republican rhetoric, including 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s Twitter comment urging supporters, “Don’t Retreat, Instead — RELOAD.”

Mar 21, 2010

Obama abortion order lures votes, riles Republicans

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama announced on Sunday he will reaffirm a ban on using federal funds to pay for abortions, which convinced some holdout Democrats to support the healthcare overhaul but riled Republicans who said the decision could be easily reversed.

The White House said Obama would issue an executive order after the passage of the healthcare reform legislation that would reaffirm the measure’s “consistency with longstanding restrictions on the use of federal funds for abortion.”

Mar 18, 2010

Polar bear, bluefin tuna trade bans rejected

WASHINGTON, March 18 (Reuters) – Proposed international trade bans on polar bears and Atlantic bluefin tuna failed to pass on Thursday at a 175-nation meeting aimed at protecting endangered species.

The United States favored both bans and was disappointed in the vote, but held out hope for passage of a resolution that would make climate change a factor in future decisions by the U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, known as CITES.

The meeting of CITES in Doha, Qatar, will consider the climate change resolution along with trade protection for about 40 species — including sharks, coral and elephants — during its two-week conference ending on March 25.

Polar bears are under pressure from the melting of their icy Arctic habitat, and are listed by the United States as a threatened species for that reason. The primary exporter of polar bears is Canada, which has recently scaled back the number of hunting permits for the bear.

While CITES uses trade restrictions to protect species at risk, Tom Strickland, assistant U.S. Interior secretary, said that climate change will have to be taken into account and that polar bears are the first species to need this consideration.

"The polar bear was the first canary in the coal mine," Strickland said of the climate change impact on the animal.

"I think we’re going to find at every CITES meeting from here on out that we’ll be looking at species and their vulnerability in terms of the effect that climate change has had on them, whether it’s drought or rising sea levels" or other ecosystem changes, he said.


Andrew Wetzler of the Natural Resources Defense Council said the CITES vote is not the end of the story for the bear.

"The ironic thing is that all the countries of the conference acknowledge that global warming is posing a huge challenge for this species," Wetzler said. "When you have a species threatened by global warming, it only makes sense to reduce all the other stresses, including hunting."

Strickland blamed the failure to pass a trade ban on Atlantic bluefin tuna on pressure from commercial interests in Japan and inaction by other regulatory bodies, notably the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). [ID:nLDE62H2EP]

"The science is compelling, the statistics are dramatic, that this species is in a catastrophic decline," Strickland said at a telephone news briefing from Washington.

Stocks of Atlantic bluefin tuna, prized as a delicacy in Japan, have plunged more than 80 percent since 1970, according to CITES. Japan imports about 80 percent of the catch.

A single fish can weigh up to 1,430 pounds (650 kg) and fetch more than $100,000. The fish is found in the north Atlantic, the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico.

"The abject failure of governments here at CITES to protect Atlantic bluefin tuna spells disaster for its future and sets the species on a pathway to extinction," said Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner Oliver Knowles.

France, Italy and Spain catch most of the tuna consumed by the global market.

In 2009, a quota of 19,950 tons of tuna was set by ICCAT, but many fish are caught live in nets, transferred to farms and fattened before slaughter.

"The market for this fish is just too lucrative and the pressure from fishing interests too great, for enough governments to support a truly sustainable future for the fish," said Susan Lieberman, director of international policy for the Pew Environment Group. (Additional reporting by Regan Doherty in Dubai; Editing by Xavier Briand)

Mar 16, 2010

U.N. meeting asked to regulate world shark trade

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Exploding Asian demand for shark fin soup has slashed worldwide shark populations, and global regulation is the best way to save eight species now under pressure, ocean conservationists reported on Monday.

Eight types of sharks — oceanic whitetip, dusky, sandbar, spurdog, porbeagle, scalloped, smooth and great hammerhead — should be regulated under the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a marine expert at the Washington-based group Oceana said.

Mar 11, 2010

Political ads: new weapon in U.S. climate change war?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Big business is now free to blitz the airwaves to attack politicians who support action against climate change, which could smother messages from environmentalists.

But it is not yet clear whether corporations have the will or the budgets to use the advertising weapon the climate change wars that emerged in January when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have the same right as individuals to free political speech, including spending on advertising.

Mar 4, 2010

Labor, environment groups push “green” broadband

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Labor and environmental groups joined with the U.S. government on Thursday to promote high speed Internet access and related technologies to create green jobs and help lift the United States out of recession.

“In the same way that building the interstate freeway system brought the United States out of the post-World War Two recession … a clean energy economy is exactly what we need in recession-bound America to put people back to work,” said David Foster, executive director of Blue Green Alliance, an organization of unions and environmental groups.

Feb 22, 2010

Climate change melts Antarctic ice shelves: USGS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Climate change is melting the floating ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula, giving scientists a preview of what could happen if other ice shelves around the southern continent disappear, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said on Monday.

The ice has retreated so far from the land mass that Charcot Island, which has long been connected to the peninsula by an ice bridge, emerged as a real island again last year, a USGS scientist said.

Feb 19, 2010
via Tales from the Trail

Has U.S. “missed the boat” on long-range renewable energy planning?


There was President Barack Obama, working a friendly crowd in Henderson, Nevada, not far from Las Vegas. And then a sympathetic comment from a French businessman who wants to see U.S. regulation of climate-warming greenhouse emissions seemed to get the president all wound up.

After noting that the weather has been particularly wild lately — five feet of snow in Washington DC, rain at the Vancouver Olympics — Obama said the best way to “unleash” dynamism in the energy market is to set fuel efficiency standards, notably for cars.

Feb 17, 2010

Canada’s permafrost retreats amid warming trend

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The permanently frozen ground known as permafrost is retreating northward in the area around Canada’s James Bay, a sign of a decades-long regional warming trend, a climate scientist said on Wednesday.

When permafrost melts, it can liberate the powerful greenhouse gas methane that is locked in the frozen soil. The amount of methane contained in permafrost around James Bay is slight compared to the vast stores of the chemical found in ancient, deep permafrost in the Yukon, Alaska and Siberia.

    • About Deborah

      "I started with Reuters in 1986 in New York City, moving to Washington DC two years later. I've covered the Winter Olympics in Calgary and Salt Lake City, a couple wars, the State Department, White House, Pentagon, several long trials and a presidential sex scandal. Since 2006, I've been reporting on the environment and climate change."
    • Follow Deborah